ENG 120: Introduction to Literature: Search Well

Professor Bongiovanni, Spring 2012.

How to Search Effectively

  • Choose the most appropriate database.
  • 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--Select a Field (optional). 
  • Put each "different piece" of your topic in a separate search box, if available.  Using the topic of "Ibsen's A Doll's House" 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.

  • 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 a particular character in A  Doll's House, or characterization, symbolism, or point of view within the work.
  • Increase your results by removing the least important "piece" of your search while still retaining the "essence" of your search.  Try searching the work or the author as a subject.
  • Still no results?  Try a different 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.
  • Be sure to take advantage of:
  • Boolean connectors (AND, OR, NOT)
  • Exact phrase searching -- "A Doll's House"
  • Field searches (search within the title, abstract, 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 from LVC Tipasa option to receive a copy of the article or book from another library.

Search Well

Although the topic's unrelated to yours, the search strategies/concepts are extremely useful.  Guaranteed to make you laugh and teach you valuable search skills.