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ENG 3510 Gender and Literature - Spring 2022

Searching a database is different than typing your question into Google.

You need to be precise in your language and communicate using the language of the database.
You can learn to be an expert searcher with these strategies. 

Search Steps

Searching for information is a process.

1. Define your question or topic

2. Identify the type of information you need on that topic

Does it need to be peer-reviewed? From the last five years? Related to a certain field?

3. Brainstorm keywords and search terms

4. Decide where to search

Online? In Spartan Search? In a subject specific database?

5. Search and then adjust your search based on results

Look at abstracts to get a sense of whether a source will fit your needs without having to read the whole thing!

7. Save your finds by downloading a copy, saving the permalink, or emailing it to yourself

Search Tips


Identify keywords for your topic and brainstorm narrower, broader, and related terms.

Example: Factors that affect academic performance in first-generation college students.

Academic Performance College First-Generation Students
Student Success Higher Education Children of Immigrants
Student Achievement University Minority Students
Learning Outcomes Community College Nontraditional Students


Boolean Operators

Typing the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT into the library catalog or databases allow you to broaden or narrow your results.

Peanut butter AND jelly, only results with both terms; Peanut butter OR jelly, results with either or both terms; Peanut butter NOT jelly, results with peanut butter only, excludes results with jelly and with both terms.


Found too many results?

Add more keywords.

Adding additional keywords to your search can help to further narrow your topic.

Example: college AND first-generation students AND academic performance


Found too few results?

Use OR.

Broaden your search by using OR to link your terms.

Example: (college OR higher education OR university) AND first-generation students AND (academic performance OR student success)


Citation Chasing

Citation Chasing and "Cited By" Searching

Once you find a good article:

  • Look at its References and find other articles that have cited it
  • In Spartan Search, click the red arrows next to the article's title to find the article's References (the downward-facing arrow), and articles that have cited this title (the upward-facing arrow)

screenshot of article record in Spartan Search

English Databases

Need more help?

Check out this Guide to the Research Process or ask a librarian.

You can contact a librarian through chat, text, phone, or submitting a question.

You can also schedule an appointment with a librarian in Academic Support Net and meet via Zoom or in person.




Library Information

Information & Research Help

630-844-5437 (phone)

630-844-3848 (fax)

630-796-7615 (text)

Interlibrary Loan


Phillips Library

347 S. Gladstone Ave.

Aurora, Illinois


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