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ENGL 105: Valenzuela: Search Skills - Finding Articles from Library Databases

Where Should I Search?

For your Essay #2 assignment in this class, Prof. Valenzuela wants you to use material from at least 2 authors. Those can be found through Google (or even better, Google Scholar) - but one way to raise your chances of finding credible sources is to use an academic database.

Luckily, all of the databases linked on the Help With Crafting a Research Question fit that description. Ditto the ones listed in the tab for Sources for Articles and eBooks.

You can always ask a librarian for recommendations, too - and for help with doing your searches. The Welcome tab has links for how to reach us for some one-with-one help.

Level Up Your Search Skills

This three-minute video describes more advanced search techniques that can focus your results even more, and save you time. The quotation marks technique works for multi-word phrases in Google, and you can use Boolean logic terms in Google Scholar, too!

Search Technique Tip # 1 - Word Choice Matters

The real art of searching is in finding just the right search keywords and phrases (like in the story of Goldilocks, not to narrow and not too broad but just right). Computers can be frustratingly literal. For example, searching for the word "schools" will bring back articles about colleges - but also all other grade levels, too. (And maybe other kinds of education, like traffic school, or even schools of fish!)

We recommend starting with specific terms, and only going more broad if you can't find what you need.

Search Technique Tip #2 - Use Words or Phrases, Not Sentences

While there has been a lot of work done recently in computer science on natural language queries and artificial intelligence, the technology isn't quite there yet when it comes to searching for information. Use keywords or phrases, not sentences or questions. For example,

Search:     anti-racism


How can we change racism?

Search Technique Tip #3 : Specify Where Your Words Appear

Word placement matters when it comes to searching. That is, if your search word or phrase is in the  article title, abstract, keyword or subject, chances are better that article is really about that topic, and your word or phrase isn't just a note at the bottom of the last page. 

If you are getting too many results from a search, try specifying that your word or phrase has to appear as a keyword, or even precise, as subject or in the abstract.

Search Tip #4 - Include Different Words for the Same Concept

Often, though, there are more than one word or phrase to describe what you need. In those situations, use the Boolean logical operator OR to connect them. In searching, "or" is not part of everyday language; instead it tells the computer that you want either or any of those terms.


racism or prejudice

skin color or colorism

Search Technique Tip #5: Use Advance Search Mode for Complex Searches

Focused searches usually include more than one concept, though. When you are looking for the intersection of more than one idea or topic, take advantage of the Advanced Search mode in the Library databases. 

Advanced search example, Gale General Onefile