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This is the "Searching and locating information" page of the "Research Guide" guide.
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Tools, tutorials, and all sorts of resources to help you successfully navigate the research process!
Last Updated: Oct 27, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Searching and locating information Print Page




Retrieves educational materials in multiple formats
- Identifies key concepts and terminology
- Helps visualize relationships between concepts
- Displays definitions of terminology
- Finds expert users on online forums
- Generates random multiple-choice quizzes




Subject-Specific Search Tools


Beyond Google (Richard Byrne)

Beyond Google - 15 Tools and Strategies for Improving Your Web Search Results -


Google Search Tips




Gwyneth Jones on Wikipedia


Why Use Library Databases? (UMLibrary)


Quixey (app search)



Portal for news sources and reference tools


What is a library database?

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Web Search Strategies


How Google Search Works


Why I love databases!


Google Search Education Evangelism


Kathy Schrock's Bloomin' Google


Search Tools


Searching for Video


Steps in the search process

Note: These steps are not necessarily performed in the following exact order but "recursively," as you revise your strategies and adapt them to your search results. You may need to go back to some questions several times. 

  • Identify the problem
  • Can I state my search problem in a clear question or questions? 
  • What type of information do I need? (overview, scholarly, news, point of view, documents, breaking news)
  •   How much information do I need? (Am I writing a research paper, essay, definition? Am I scripting a digital story, full length video or 

2. Select appropriate databases or search tools

  • Does the search tool or database cover my subject?
  • Does it contain the formats I need to answer my questions? (newspapers, magazines, primary sources, video, encyclopedia)
  • Are there abstracts to help me decide if the text will be useful?
  • Does it cover the time period I am interested in?
  • Can I understand the information contained in it? (If I can't understand the abstracts, the text is likely to be very challenging!)
  • Is it full text? If not, can I access the materials it indexes through interlibrary loans, other libraries, or fax? (Ask for help rather than give up!

    3.     Brainstorm keywords, subjects, and tags 

    • What are my major concepts?
    • What synonyms, broader or narrower terms, or related ideas could I use?
    • How will I link the keywords with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), especially in databases?  What are the search strategies available in the search tool?
    • Should I be concerned about plurals or other forms of words? (Are there truncation or wildcard features?)
    • Will proper names (people or places) focus my search?
    • Should I adjust my strategy for a full-text database?
    • Is there a thesaurus or controlled vocabulary? Does the search tool suggest related terms? (Check your results for "subject headings.")
    • Are some words meaningless (for example, "company" in a business database) in this database?
    • Have I spelled everything correctly?

    4.     Subject vs. keyword search

    •  Do I have more than one concept to search?
    •  Am I browsing for a topic or looking for a way to narrow a broad topic?   
    • Can I spell the vocabulary correctly?
    • Can I search by field?


    5.     Refine the search online (Searching is an interactive process!)

    •  Are my hits relevant, readable, accessible?
    • Have I used all the strategies I planned to use?
    • Have I tried different combinations of keywords?
    • Should I use broader or narrower terms?
    • Have I searched with "peripheral vision"? (Have I examined the most promising hits for better vocabulary, especially in the "subject" or "descriptor" fields?)
    • Did I spell my search terms correctly?Do I need to ask the library information specialist for advice?
    • Should I try another database or search engine?Is my topic really not "doable"? Should I consider another?
    • Can I set up an alert or RSS feed for my best search?


    6.     Evaluate the search offline; examine that printout; ask, "What if?"

    • How relevant were my results?
    • Which of the results are the best? (relevant, timely, credible, readable, available, and promote the point of view I support)
    • Which of my strategies worked best? Should I try them in another database?
    • Are there additional keyword clues in my printout?
    • Did I select the best possible databases?
    • Did I get the help I needed?  Did I ask?
    • What is my next step?




    Search Plan


    RSS in Plain English (Common Craft)


    SIRS: The Human Element




    Evaluating Databases

    You will examine three databases likely to be useful for your research. Most are available off our Database and Portals page. As you examine the database, record any relevant information in the organizer shown below.

    1. Visit the database and carefully examine the features on its front page;
    2. Determine what type of database you are working with. What types of information formats does it retrieve? What subjects does it cover? What is its scope? Visit the help or about page for clues.
    3. Carefully examine and evaluate the database so that you know its best and worst features.
    4. Is there an advanced search page? What special features does it offer?
    5. Are there any other special features? (image searching? translation? subject browse? RSS feeds? text to speech?)
    6. How are results organized and displayed? In what order? Are there summaries? Annotations? Keywords to guide searchers? Related terms?
    7. Try at least two searches on your perspective topic/question to "road test" your database.

    After the road tests, use the organizer below to help you evaluate each database. Conclude with this question: What are the five major selling points for this database?

    Database Evaluation Organizer

    Use this chart to help you record the features you'll be demonstrating in your advertisement.

    Name of Database:

    Database Content
    What information formats does this database contain? (Examples: newspapers, magazines, television transcripts, video, etc.)

    Is it a general database or does it cover specific subject areas?

    Is the interface "friendly" and attractive? Please comment.

    Is it easy to use? Please comment.

    Is it easy to find help? What kind of help is offered? Please comment.

    Does it contain any multimedia material?

    Search Strategies:
    Which search strategies can you use? Make sure you check out both the regular and Advanced Search screens.

    Can use search using Boolean operators? Phrase searching? Wildcards? Natural language--regular questions or words? Other?

    Other search strategies:

    Can you search by field? (URL, title, graphics, author, document type, etc.)

    Specialized searches: Can you search for: images, audio, video, etc.?

    What unique tricks does this search tool do?

    Can you filter for scholarly (refereed, peer reviewed, academic)resources?

    Can you search by reading level?

    Can you filter to get full text only?

    Subject searching? Is there a subject or topic browse? Are subject terms displayed after a search?

    Can you search chronologically or limit by date?


    How are results arranged?

    How can you resort results?
    Relevance? Date? Publication? Other?

    Are there summaries/annotations?

    Can you find related subject headings or descriptors in the results?

    Are the results in html or pdf or docs or other formats?

    Can you email, embed, save, download, bookmark results?

    Can you set up an email alert or an RSS feed?

    Does the database offer citation help?

    Are the results you selected too easy or too challenging to read and understand?

    Small print: Are there negative features of this database?

    What are the five major selling points for this search tool?






    Will this database help with your research?




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