Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research in ENGL185: Basic Searching

Searching in the library world

If you've got your topic, you'll need keywords to search in the library's resources. Unlike google, these databases, as they're called, prefer simple terms, not the whole question typed out. So from our previous page on Brainstorming we had super general topics like:

  • Campus topics
  • History's mysteries
  • Community

Through the mind mapping exercise, we can get a narrower topic from each of these. For instance:

  • Campus topics = How are campuses supporting the mental health of their students?
    • Keywords - college, support, mental health
  • History's mysteries = What is the significance of megaliths like Stonehenge?
    • Keywords - significance, megalith
  • Community = How does quarantining because of a pandemic bring communities closer  together?
    • Keywords - quarantine, community, positive

Better keywords

What you'll inevitably do with those terms is use them in a database or google. You search for quarantine, community: you're actually telling the website to give you quarantine AND community: every result will have both words in it. That is using the word AND.

With the examples above, we will probably get some results. But I want you to get all the possible results. As an example, we have the keyword "mental health". A sociologist might use that term, but a social worker may not. The social worker may use "well being". Both of these researchers are talking about the exact same thing, but if you only used "mental health" you're going to be missing out on some great sources. What is needed is a broader search. We can do that by using both words, but not caring if one or the other comes up: as long as one does. The terminology is called Boolean Logic, using AND, OR, NOT.

  • Mental health OR well being
  • megaliths OR Stonehenge
  • community OR group

As long as my results contain one of the "OR"s, I'm happy. Combining AND's and OR's you can build super great searches that will get you all the possible results! Then you can choose to use or not use them when the time comes. The image below shows them in action:

boolean operatorsImage from Albion College library.