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Contemporary & Popular Issues: hot topics research

Library research tools to help you find sources for research and writing on current events, hot topics and pro/con issues

STEP 2: SEARCHING THE DATABASES

Create a Search Strategy

 

Combine your keywords/search terms with Boolean operators

  • OR (synonyms: any of these words)
  • AND (restrict: all these words)

Break your research topic into keywords.

  • Many databases use specific terms to label documents, use these "official" database terms from the results that work for you
  • Try the thesaurus or subject headings

Use parentheses with your terms and Boolean operators to create your search phrase

  • exp. (cat OR kitten) AND (wild OR feral OR homeless)
Determine your conditions and apply them to your search as limits or filters
  • exp. publication year, document type, or Peer Reviewed
Place quotation marks (“ ”) around phrases to keep words together. 
  • Use this for an exact quote, phrase or order of the search term. exp. "latin america"
Add asterisks (*) to “fill-in-the-blank” at the end of a word 
  • The asterisk will be replaced by any applicable letters
  • This is called truncation
  • You can use asterisks as a shortcut for OR-ing words that have identical roots
  • For example, paint* will search for paint, painting, painters, painterly, etc.

Each database may have different features that will expedite your searches.

Look at links and/or icons for these functions:

  • In some you can create a free account to save citations, searches, or research for later review.
  • Use the built-in citation generators
  • You can often e-mail citations or the full-text to yourself or a colleague.
  • See if the database allows you to export a citation directly into RefWorks or another bibliographic management program.

Use Boolean operators (the words AND, OR, and NOT) to combine your search terms.

  • Use AND when you want to include all of two or more terms together in the same search – use with independent concepts. AND will limit your results with each additional term.
  • Use OR when you want to include any of two or more terms in a search – use with related concepts. OR will expand your results with each additional term.
  • Use NOT when you want to exclude a term from your search. NOT will limit your results and is useful to avoid retrieving irrelevant items, but use NOT with caution! By excluding an item that briefly mentions the unwanted term, you might be excluding an otherwise useful resource.

You can use as many Boolean operators as you like in a search phrase, but include related concepts in parentheses to keep the phrase organized (this is called nesting). For example:

Dog OR Canine AND Bark NOT Tree: Messy

(Dog OR Canine) AND (Bark NOT Tree): Clear

For more information and practice exercises, see the Boolean searching guide by the Colorado State University Libraries.

Boolean Operators: Pirates vs. Ninjas

An introduction to the basics of Boolean operators. Created to support information literacy instruction at Lincoln Memorial University's Carnegie-Vincent Library.

LOOK FOR ARTICLES AND MORE

Try searching for your topic using these interdisciplinary resources & databases.