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A Guide to Library Research in Psychology at Goucher College


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The key to being a savvy online searcher is to know and use common search techniques that you can apply to almost any database, including article databases, online catalogs and even commercial search engines.

This is important because searching library databases is a bit different from searching Google.

Using these techniques will enable you to quickly retrieve relevant information from the thousands of records in a database.

Find and use the Help tool!    Most provide specific tips for getting the best results in their product. 

When you search a database and do not get the results you expect, Ask Us for advice.  Library staff are happy to help you find what you need.  You may also call 410-337-6212 or stop by the Research Help Desk in the Information Commons.

General Tips

Construct your search statement

1. State your research question in a clear sentence.
     I’d like to study microeconomics of the agriculture industry in Japan .

2. Identify the concepts in your research question.
     microeconomics and agriculture and industry and Japan.

3. Think of related terms (connected by or) which might also describe your concepts.
     (microeconomics or supply or demand) and (agriculture or farming or husbandry) and (industry or business or companies
or firms) and (Japan or Hokkaido or Honshu)

4. Apply special features and put together your statement
     (microeconomic* or supply or demandand (agricultur* or farm*or husbandryand (industr* or business* or companies or
     firms) and (Japan or Hokkaido or Honshu)  

Note that parentheses are only needed when "OR" strings and ANDs are linked in the same box.

If you get too many articles...

--Add another concept, using and
     (Japan or Hokkaido or Honshu) and (fruit or apples or pears)

--Limit your terms to more specific fields (example: subject, title, abstract)

Searching Tips: special features

--Use wildcards (sometimes called truncation) whenever appropriate. The wildcard character is usually an asterisk.
       Ex. farm* will retrieve farms, farming, farmers, etc.

--Beware the "phrase-searching trap"!    In many databases,  you will get additional relevant hits by putting a proximity symbol or the connector AND between phrase words   Ex. In EBSCO databases, instead of "urban sprawl"  type  "urban n3 sprawl" [no quotes] to ALSO catch articles that write of sprawl in urban areas.

If you don't get enough...

--Check for typos.

--Add related terms, using or
     (management or supervis* or oversight)

--Take out a concept
     (agricultur* or farm*or husbandryand (industr* or business* or companies or firms) and (Japan or Hokkaido or Honshu)  

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