Saturday, September 25th, 2021

Research Skills & Tools


In this section of the Information Literacy Tutorial you will learn how to search the library catalog and online databases more effectively. You will learn how to develop research strategies, which tools will help you find the types of resources you need, how to use search tools effectively to narrow and/or broaden your searches, the differences between subject and keyword searching, and how to correctly interpret search results/records.


  1. Develop a Research Strategy by:
    1. Defining the Key Concepts and Terms
    2. Determining how much detail is required:
      1. General and/or specific.
      2. Quantitative and/or narrative.
      3. Recent or historical information.
    3. Determining what type of information you need:
      1. Primary and/or secondary
        sources.
      2. Facts and figures.
      3. Review or survey information.
      4. Discussions of your topic.
      5. Analysis of your subject.
    4. Determining what types of sources to use:
      1. Books, bibliographies, and government documents provide reviews or surveys.
      2. Facts and figures are found in statistics.
      3. Analyses can be found in periodicals (journals or magazines).
      4. A discussion of an event can be seen or heard on news reports, radio programs, or
        documentaries
    5. Locating the information sources:
      1. Look for books, bibliographies, government documents and documentaries in the
        library catalog.
      2. Search databases for articles from journals and
        magazines.
      3. Find statistics through UACCH Library’s links to
        Statistical Resources.
      4. Find documentaries with the library catalog.

  2. The Search Process: Begin by searching for your keywords in the library catalog and online databases. Databases and catalogs search the records of every item in them and provide a list of matching results, usually in the form of a citation. A citation provides all or most of the information needed to locate the item it is describing in either print or electronic form.
    1. A citation in a catalog provides the call number for the item and all of its bibliographic information (author, title, date of publication, place of publication and publisher).
    2. A brief record in an online database usually contains all of the information that is included in a bibliographic citation. In most databases, clicking on the article’s title will take you to the full record which includes:
      1. the bibliographic information broken down into its labeled parts (author, title, source),
      2. subject headers/descriptors that describe the general topics of the article,
      3. an abstract or brief summary of the article, and
      4. sometimes there will be a hot link to the full text of the article.
      5. The default search in most catalogs and online databases is a keyword search. The database retrieves items that have your search term anywhere in the item’s record (any part of the bibliographic citation, abstract, or the full text of the article).

    3. Advanced Searching Methods
      1. Combining Terms with Boolean Operators
        1. AND will retrieve items indexed by both terms. AND is useful when you are retrieving too many items in your searches – it helps you narrow your search and retrieve smaller result sets.
          Example: ground water AND contamination
        2. OR will retrieve items that are indexed by either or both search terms. OR is useful when you need to find more resources – it helps you broaden your search and retrieve larger result sets.
          Example: groundwater OR ground water
        3. NOT will retrieve items that are described by one search term but not by the other search term. NOT is useful when you are retrieving items that are not really related to your topic – it helps you narrow your search and be more exacting.
          Example: ((ground NOT lake) AND water) AND contamination
      2. Phrase Searching allows searching for an exact prase by enclosing terms within quotation marks.
        Example: “psychological fiction”
      3. Wildcard (?) and Truncation (*) Symbols are used to create searches where there are unknown characters, multiple spellings or various endings. Neither the wildcard nor the truncation symbol can be used as the first character in a search term. The +, # or some other symbol may also be used. Check the database or search engines help screen to know for sure.
        1. The wildcard is represented by a question mark (?). To use the wildcard, enter your search terms and replace each unknown character with a ?. The database finds all citations of that word with the ? replaced by a letter.
          Example: type ne?t to find all citations containing neat, nest or next. Net is not included in the results because the wildcard replaces a single character.
        2. Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. The database finds all forms of that word.
          Example: type comput* to find the words computer or computing.
      4. Proximity Searching is used to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the database(s). Proximity searching is used with a keyword or Boolean search. The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number (to specify the number of words). The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched, as follows:
        1. Near Operator (N)N5 finds the words if they are within five words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.
          Example: type tax N5 reform to find results that would match tax reform as well as reform of income tax.
        2. Within Operator (W) – In the following example, W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order in which you entered them. Example: type tax W8 reform to find results that would match tax reform but would not match reform of income tax.