Part 2: Search Strategies

21 Putting It All Together

Just one more recap to make sure we’re all on the same page!

Research topic selected? Check! Information need defined? Check! Keywords and related term brainstormed through presearch? Double check! Search tool selected and located on the library website? Check and check! Let’s start searching!

Let’s put this all together with an example:

You receive an assignment from an instructor: Pick a topic; it can be anything. Gulp.

First off, don’t fret, remember, we got this! Second off, reviewing the assignment a bit closer we notice there are some restrictions on the topics we can select. Need to have one newspaper article and one scholarly article (source types defined for us!). And it needs to be related to a recent issue, narrowing our information need even further.

OK, as a COCC student, maybe higher education is a topic that appeals to you because you live it. So we have a really broad research topic that we need to narrow down. Since we need to focus on a recent issue for a topic, let’s review some higher education issues in the headlines with a little presearch using news search tools.

We remember the Current Events & Controversial Issues subject guide has some search tools that allow us to browse, so we navigate to that page and open up America’s News. We click the first link to Find a Topic, and click on the broad topic of Education. From there, we review the narrower topics, click a few links, read a few news articles to find something that really speaks to us, and focus on student loan debt forgiveness as our “just right” research focus. Thank you presearch!

From the presearch, we made notes about main concepts that we could use for keywords: college, student loan, debt forgiveness. We know we’ll need to combine these in to a search statement and, since we want all of those main concepts to appear in all of our results we use AND. Our search statement looks like this:

college AND student loan AND debt forgiveness

During our presearch, we found a news article that helped us focus our topic but that would also work well as one of our sources. The assignment required at least one news article so we’re good to go with that! That leaves us with one last information need: a scholarly article focused on student loans and debt forgiveness.

We’re pretty specialized at this point, so to select a search tool we go to Resources by Subject and look at the Education guide. We review the search tool descriptions and select Educators Reference Complete and ERIC. All that’s left is to enter our search statement in the search tool and select a source!

The best part about using library search tools is that there are a lot of ways to refine your searches without ever having to change your keywords. Watch and consider the following video demonstrating how to search in Educators Reference Complete.

Now that we’ve done one search there and found a source, watch and consider this second video demonstrating how to search in ERIC.

Remember, the library subscribes to a lot of different search tools, but many are provided by two companies: Gale and EBSCO. The two search tools we just searched each come from one of these companies: Educators Reference Complete from Gale and ERIC from EBSCO*. It would be too much to demonstrate a search in every search tool the library provides, but by doing a sample search in these two tools, you are now familiar with how a majority of our search tools work. Which means, you should feel comfortable filtering your results, reading articles, and using the toolbar (e.g., citations, email, and permalinks) in most of the library search tools. What you’re searching changes, but how you’re searching remains the same!

For the search tools that don’t come from Gale or EBSCO, most of these features work in a similar fashion with filtering options, reading full-text, and offering helpful toolbars, you just might have to click around a bit or look for different icons. If you ever get lost in a search tool, talk to a librarian, that’s what we’re here for!

*Quick side note: in your LIB100 assignments, you’re asked to identify your search tools by name. The name of the tool is the specific database you searched, not the company that provides the tool. So if you used ERIC, that would be your search tool. Not EBSCO. If you need help with this, reach out to me!


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Introduction to Finding Information by Kirsten Hostetler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.