Adapted from the Research Toolkit created by Wendy Hayden and Stephanie Margolin (Hunter College).
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Your research question will largely determine the kinds of sources you need and how you search for them. Note that searching the library catalog or databases usually requires being more careful about your search terms and strategies (compared to when searching in Google). Though this can be frustrating, once you learn some simple strategies you will likely find it much easier to find scholarly sources through the Library's resources.
This page includes tips to help you develop a strategic search. The video below also discusses library research as a strategic process that often involves trial out various search terms and strategies.
Keywords are search terms that express the essence of your topic. They are crucial to an effective search, especially in library databases. Here are some tips for identifying keywords:
If your first term doesn’t work, try a synonym. You may have to try out several related search terms to find the types of resources you're looking for. (Example: environment INSTEAD OF environmental consequences)
To identify useful keywords, do some quick background research. Note terms that are often used to discuss the topic. (Reference sources like Wikipedia or the library databases Credo Reference and Oxford Reference Online offer overviews of many topics. Of course, remember to evaluate information in Wikipedia with particular care since almost anyone can edit it.)
Do a quick database search and view the search results page to identify relevant terms.
In most databases you can refine results using the search functions AND, OR, and NOT.
Video tutorial| search strategy worksheet (Hunter College)
Too few results? Ways to narrow a search include:
More search tips for broadening or narrowing a search.
This video may help you rethink your search.
Looking for scholarly articles from journals? Search UWG Databases
Using good sources to find more good sources (Hunter College)
Finding more sources with a bibliography (Interactive resource from Hunter College)