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Database Tips: Search Strategies


Getting the hang of searching

Much like learning how to do anything, the key to searching for resources is thinking about what you're going to before jumping right in.  Since you already have your topic, the hardest part is already done.  The next big step is searching for sources - and there are just a few easy steps before you're off and running.


1) Broadly, what are you searching for?  (a book?  an article?  a video?  a website?)  That tells you *where* to search, either GALILEO, GIL, or the web.

2) Next, what are you searching for more specifically?  (A book on how bees make honey?  An article about the newest iPad's performance? A video showing how to knead bread?)  It can be helpful to make a list of key words or phrases you might want to look for - and don't forget to think of interchangable words, too.  Then you can mix and match the words to get exactly the results you need.

3) Think about a few other things like When and Who - do you need to find resources that are very recent?  Do you need an article that is by someone who is a specialist in the field?  You can actually narrow your searches using these criteria.


After you've thought through these things, you're ready to take the plunge! 


Calvin & Hobbes Comic. Calvin tries to get Susie to do his library research.

Searching, redux

Want some more details about searching??

Here are some specific steps you can follow....

1. Define your topic. 

      Example - My topic is growing tomatoes in a home garden. 

2. Choose the keywords that describe this topic.

      Example - some of my keywords would be "tomatoes", "garden", and a key phrase might be "growing tomatoes".

3. Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included.

      Example - related term: "vegetable gardening"; variation: "tomato"; synonym: "cultivation"

4. Choose where you're going to search

      Example: GIL, GALILEO, the internet using Google or Bing

5. Check to see if where you are searching requires special functions to search effectively.

      Example:  Some sites require you use Boolean searches.  And sometimes sites require you to put phrases in quotation marks: instead of civil war, you would type "civil war".

5. Evaluate the results. How many hits were returned? Were the results relevant to your query?

      Example - I typed in "tomato" and got all sorts of results that talked about different kinds of tomatoes, and tomato recipes.  That's not what I'm looking for, so I need to add a second word to narrow my search.  I try typing "tomato" and "garden" to see what I get!

6. Modify your search if needed. Go back to steps 2 and 3 and think of other words, other combinations of words, or create new phrases.

7. Try the same search in other places!

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