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ITG 499 | The Art of Survival

Professor Andrea Walker

How to Search Effectively

  • Boil your topic down to the most important words.  Most important words are typically the nouns in your thesis statement or research question.  Ignore superfluous words like in, the, of, with, against, affect, impact.  Begin with a keyword search--Select a Field (optional). 
  • Put each "different piece" of your topic in a separate search box (if it is available).  Using the topic of "survival while in the wilderness or while hiking or backpacking" as an example below, note how each different piece of the topic is entered on a separate line.   Leave the AND off to the left as it is.  Synonyms for the pieces are connected by OR--and kept on the same line--as seen below...

  • Too many results?  Focus your search by searching for your keywords in the ABSTRACT field or the TITLE field.  Click on the Select a Field (optional) pull down bar to select the abstract or title field.  Or...add another concept--perhaps, in this case, look at Durkheim's approach to religion.
  • Too few results?  Think of synonyms.  Add synonyms to your search--using OR--and keep your synonyms all on the same line
  • Increase your results by removing the least important "piece" of your search while still retaining the "essence" of your search.  For instance, if you had included approach in the third line--that would be the piece that you could remove, and still retain the most important pieces.
  • Still no results?  Broaden your search slightly.  Still no luck?  Try a different database.  Within EBSCO databases, you can do that by clicking on the CHOOSE DATABASE link that's found on top of the top search box.  Select your database(s) and run your search again.
  • When reviewing your results, look for relevant "subject" or "descriptor" words.  Find subject terms either on the results page, or at the end of individual records.  Write down relevant subject terms that you find.  
  • Go back to the search screen and using the subject terms you discovered, search your subject terms in the subject or descriptor field.  Subject terms are gold threads--they will almost always lead you to the most relevant results.
  • Be sure to take advantage of:
  • Boolean connectors (AND, OR, NOT)
  • Exact phrase searching -- "sociological approach" OR "max weber"
  • Field searches (search within the abstract, title, or subject fields)
  • When you find an article you want, choose PDF full-text or HTML full-text links.  Or...use the       link to find full-text.
  • If the Looking for Full-Text link failed, then use the Request through LVC Tipasa link to receive a copy of the article or book from another library.