Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. So you'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - KEYWORDS.
Example: What was the effect of social media on candidate preference in the 2016 US presidential election?
The specifics of your topic will matter when selecting sources, but for searching, you only need the most essential components.
Keywords: social media, candidate preference, 2016 US presidential election
Most words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!
Keyword: social media Synonym: Facebook
Keep an Eye Out
Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.
Most library databases have search tools built in. Try some of these:
Look on the left and right of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools - and more!
You can evaluate any source using the 5 W's:
Use the operator AND to find only sources that mention both keywords.
social media AND candidate preference
This search will bring back fewer results than searching either keyword on its own.
Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords.
social media OR Facebook
This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.
Use the “QUOTES” strategy to search for several words in a phrase.
This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.
Here are just a few steps to help you narrow down your research topic:
Did you know that using Boolean logic can help cut down on the number of resources you need to sort through? It is a great way to save time and find resources mostly closely related to your research.
Boolean has 3 terms: AND, NOT, OR. Here is a quick break down of what they do!
AND - This term causes the database or website to look for items that contain both of the keywords. Depending on the database or website, you can actually search more than two keywords at once. This should shrink your results list.
NOT - This term causes the database or website to exclude items that contain the "NOT" word. This should shrink your results list.
OR - This term causes the database or website to include any of the keywords you enter. This will grow your results list. This is a good term to use if you cannot seem to find anything or there are several synonyms for your assignments keywords.
NOTE: Google does not allow "NOT". You will need to substitute "-" in front of the keyword you wish to exclude.