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Last Updated: Apr 3, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates


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Research Methods

Keyword SearchesA valuable technique for discovering relevant materials in subject databases, on-line catalogs, and Internet search engines. For broad results, use a single keyword or group of synonyms linked with "OR" Boolean operator.  For narrow and more precise results, combine multiple related terms using the "AND" operator. While often helpful for finding relevant materials that subject searches may miss, keyword searching often produces an equal among irrelevant or marginally-relevant sources and often leave out relevant items captured under more specific subject headings. 

Subject Headings/IndexesAn optimal method to rely on when searching for related scholarly materials in subject databases and on-line catalogs.  To identify relevant subject headings, see if the database provides access to a thesaurus or subject index. Otherwise, scan the subject headings in the bibliographic record for a relevant source you discovered using a keyword search or other search technique.  

Citation SearchesA useful approach to take if you have already found a particularly relevant source.  Scan footnotes, end-notes, and works cited pages to identify other sources directly related to your area of inquiry.  This is an especially useful method for getting a sense of how scholarly conversations on specific topics have evolved over time.

Focused Browsing:  Because libraries organize their materials by subject area, a good method for finding closely related print books is to browse the shelves once you have identified a call number for at least on highly relevant source.  This approach is best utilized when in-depth searching for embedded ideas or chapters is necessary.   

Published BibliographiesUse these sources to get an overview of past research published on a particular topic.   One major advantage of using these sources is that they are written by subject experts and thus provide a better indication of which sources are most important and relevant instead of providing you with all related resources like the catalog or on-line databases.   

People Sources: Don't forget to consult with professors, librarians, and other professionals when trying to locate relevant information.  Reference librarians are regularly available to help guide you along the process.  Listservs and local public libraries are also excellent places to make new contacts.




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