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*Finding Sources*

Identify Key Terms

KEYWORDS

Look at your working thesis statement, or the topic of your paper.  What are the major terms that you find?  These are the key terms, or keywords, that you will want to use to begin creating your search.

SYNONYMS

Something to keep in mind when creating your search terms is synonyms, or words that mean the same thing.  It may be that the specific term (or terms) you have chosen has synonyms.  Make a list of synonyms for each of your keywords.  This will give you a variety of terms you can use in your search if your original words don't get the results you want or need.

HOMONYMS

Your key term(s) may have homonyms - words that are spelled the same that have a different meaning.  Consider the word bass.  Do you think of a fish, or a stringed instrument, or the low register in music?  If this is one of your search terms, you may have to use some special tricks to get the correct results.  But don't worry!  We are going to look at how to deal with synonyms and homonyms right now.

Choosing Your Keywords

 

Boolean Operators

So, what do you do when your search term has synonyms or is a homonym, or you just get way too many unrelated results when you do your search?  You use Boolean Operators!

Don't let the term throw you off!  This is a way to use the words AND, OR, & NOT to help you define your search.  When you do a search on Google, it ignores those words, and looks for pages that have all, some, or one of your search terms.  That's why you can get so many results, with a large number of them having nothing to do with what you want.  When you use these in a database search, it will narrow or widen your search. 

Let's take a look at what each one does.

 

AND

It might seem like AND would give you more results.  But, it actually narrows your search down by looking for items that contain BOTH words, instead of just one.  This is good to use when you get lots of results that aren't really related to what you want.  Your term may be found in conjunction with other topics that you don't want.  You will want to choose another term that will narrow the results down to your specific topic.

For example, if you want to find articles that discuss pet ownership of multiple types of animals at one time, you might want to use cats AND dogs for articles about people who have both. 

You can use AND to deal with homonyms by choosing a term that would specify your usage of the term.

The picture below illustrates what using AND does to your search.

Circle A and Circle B intersect to form area C.  Circle A is all of the Results with one term, and Circle B is all of the results with a second term.  Area C, where the Circles overlap, is the results that have both term A and term B, which is significantly less than either of the terms seperately.

 

OR

OR is almost the opposite of AND.  OR gives you more results by looking for either of the terms entered.  Use OR when you want to include synonyms in your search. 

Following our example from AND, say you now want to find pet ownership articles, but you don't really care which type they have, just that they have either cats or dogs.

The picture below illustrates what using OR does to your search.

Circles A and B overlapping to form area C.  Circle A is all of the results with one term, and Circle B is all of the results with a second term.  Using OR will give you the results of Both Circle A and Circle B.  Usually, there is some overlap, area C, but not always.

NOT

NOT acts like AND by narrowing your results.  You can use it to exclude terms that you do not want.  

Using our pet example, you could search dogs NOT cats to get results that do not include cat owners.

You can use this to remove results for homonyms by using not with a term that would indicate the other usage of your term.

The picture below illustrates what using NOT does to your search.

Circles A and B overlap to form area C.  Circle A is all of the results with one term, and Circle B is all of the results with a second term.  Using A NOT B will give you the results of Circle A  minus Area C, the part that overlaps with Circle B.

Here is a short video you can watch to help understand the concept of Boolean Operators.

Boolean Operators: AND, OR, NOT

 

 

Subject Headings

Once you have started your search, you can also make use of subjects and subject headings within a database.  You can often find these in a list next to your search results, or included in information about a source when you view it.  Clicking on a hyperlinked subject will get you a list of all of the articles that also have that subject.  You can also use the subjects to choose keywords when refining your original search.

A star marks the location of Subjects on a page of results in an EBSCO database search.  It is on the left side below limits and source types.

Location of Subjects in an EBSCO search results list.  You may need to click on an arrow next to Subject to display the list.  Selecting a subject here narrows your current results to articles with that subject.  If you click on Show More, you get a larger list, and you can select multiple subjects.

 

A star marks the location of Subjects in an EBSCO article.  It is found in the middle of the page below the title of the article.

Location of Subjects in an EBSCO article.  Clicking on a subject in this list will retrieve all articles in the database with that term listed as a subject.

 

A star marks the location of subjects in the results of a Gale database search.  The appear to the top right of the list of results.

Location of subjects in the results of a Gale database search.  Clicking on a subject here will narrow your current results to only those articles with the selected subject.

 

A star marks the location of subjects in an article in a Gale database.  They are located to the right of the article, below More Like These.

Location of subjects in an article in a Gale database.  Clicking on a subject here will retrieve all articles in the database with the same subject.