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ART 370 | Museum Studies

Professor McNulty

How to Search Effectively

  • Choose the most appropriate database.  Good databases for museum studies may be found under the JOURNAL subtab, or the NEWSPAPER subtab.
  • Boil your topic down to the most important words.  Ignore superfluous words like in, the, of, with, against, affect, impact.  Begin with a keyword search. 
  • Put each "different piece" of your topic in a separate search box, if available.  Using the topic of criticism of Van Gogh's Starry Night as an example below, each different piece of the topic is entered on a separate line.  Synonyms for the pieces are connected by OR--and kept on the same line--as seen below with criticize...


  • Too many results?  Focus your search by searching for your keywords in the ABSTRACT field or the TITLE field.  Click on the All - Smart Search to select the abstract or title field.
  • 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 (in the case above, it might be Van Gogh). 
  • Still no results?  Broaden your search slightly.  Can't find specific criticism on the Starry Night?  Look for criticism of Van Gogh--within these articles/books, you'll find criticism of Starry Night.  Still no luck?  Try a different journal article database.
  • 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.
  • When you find an article you want, use the       link to find full-text.
  • No full-text?  Use the Interlibrary Loan link to receive a copy of the article or book from another library.
  • Be sure to take advantage of boolean operators, exact phrase searching, and field searches.  Document below provides more information.