Searching Tips

Tips for searching databases:

What are databases? Databases are special search engines that contain articles and other media that have been carefully evaluated by experts.

  • Do not ask a database a question like Google - use specific keywords.
  • Use boolean search terms AND, OR, NOT to string together keywords and synonyms. (Note that most databases and search engines automatically combine terms with AND.)
  • The more words you use, the FEWER results you will get - take out some keywords to get to the bigger idea.
  • Use PHRASE SEARCHING - use quotation marks (i.e. "public assistance") to keep the words together in the search, otherwise the database will search for EACH word separately.
  • Use WILDCARDS - to make sure you get all the results - econ* - will give you all the suffixes after econ - economics, economy, etc.
  • You can filter your results (i.e. encyclopedia or reference article, image/video, essay or journal/magazine article etc.).

Searching the free Internet

Search engines (like Google) allow you to find a plethora of information. However, anyone can put information on the internet and social media so you need to carefully evaluate and select your sources based on careful evaluation. 

  • Check the author’s credentials (using the domain .org .com .edu .gov is not always sufficient). What do others say about this author/ organization?
  • Check the accuracy of the information against another source.
  • What is the purpose of this site (to sell, persuade, to educate)? Does this affect if or how you will use the information?
  • Check that the information is being updated and/or maintained.
  • Make sure the information is relevant to your topic.

Other Tips:

Get better search results using Google Search Modifiers.

Find government documents like statistics, legislation, government agencies, etc.

Finding scholarly articlesGoogle Scholar finds published peer-reviewed work and text from actual court decisions. Many require subscriptions but some are accessible to the general public. The Media Specialists can help you get many of these articles through interlibrary loan.

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