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Communication Arts Guide: Search Strategy

Keyword Searching

It's very important to remember that our catalog and databases do not search like Google searches!  It will not work to type in a long phrase with lots of articles and prepositions.  So,
here are some helpful keyword hints:

  • Identify simple one or two-word concepts in your topic.

       Example Topic: How are race relations impacted by rap or hip hop music?
       Simple concepts: race, relations, rap, hip hop, music

  • Search your simple concepts with the word AND.  Example: Race AND rap music, race

       AND hip hop.  It's often best to start simply and see the results!

  • Think of synonyms for your concepts.  Example: Instead of race relations, you might try

        racism, minorities, African Americans, social aspects.

  • Try lots of different combinations of your search terms!  You are unlikely to find exactly

       what you want just by doing one search!

  • Come to the Research Services desk for help if you get stuck!


Subject Searching

Subject Searching

Why would you want to do a subject search?  Well, let's say you were interested in finding all the books in the library about cats.  You might find books about cats under "Cats," "Kittens," Felines," or a variety of other keywords.  When you search by subject, then all of the synonyms are accounted for, so "Cats" as a subject would include all the books about "Kittens" and "Felines" as well.   Subjects can also serve to narrow your search.  A keyword search of "cats" would retrieve all the books that just have a few pages about cats, whereas a search of the subject "Cats" would retrieve books where the main focus were those cute, furry creatures!   This website from MIT might do a better job of explaining it than I did!

Come on, get creative!  You can combine subjects or subjects and keywords.  Remember, joining terms with "OR" will get you "MORE" results and joining terms with "AND" will narrow your results.  Savvy researchers try lots of different combinations of terms and discover what yields the best results.  Happy searching!