search strategy tips
§ What are you looking for?
§ Can you describe concepts or ideas into a few words?
§ Do you need background information?
§ Will you need articles only, or both articles and books?
§ What words can you use to describe your topic?
§ Do you need technical terminology/scientific terms to describe your subject area?
§ What field or subject area does your topic cover?
§ Do you need articles based on scientific research, or general information?
time period do you want to cover? Not
all databases cover the same time period.
4. Interpret Results
§ Did you get too few or too many results? (see step 5)
§ Do any of the results meet your search criteria? Are the results relevant and appropriate? If not, you may need to use the Boolean operator “not” to eliminate irrelevant hits. For example, cats not dogs, white oak not red oak.
§ Is the article available online full-text? Did you check MGetIt for confirmation? If the article is not available online, is there a print version? Does UM own the journal that carries the article?
5. Determine Next Steps
§ If you got too few or too many results you will need to adjust your search terms to compensate:
Too few– broaden your search. You can do that by removing one or two of your parameters. For example, expand the time frame. Look for alternative spellings, such as behaviour. Use scientific names with common names, such as search for white oak AND quercus alba.
Too many – narrow your search. Use a set time period, such as the last 10 years. See if you can limit the search by language, document type (for example, articles only), gender, age, location.
§ If you find an author whose work you like, you can do an author search for more articles written by this person.
§ If the search results show subject (aka descriptor) terms, you can use them instead of keywords.
§ Do you need to re-do your search in another database?
Where to Get Help
- Any library reference desk
- Ask a Librarian (online chat). Link located on any library homepage, or directly at http://www.lib.umich.edu/ask
Patricia Yocum, rev. JM Jones, 10/08