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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.
Be Creative with Search Terms
The first term you think of may not be the best one. There are other words or phrases you can search with to find material on that topic. We call these keywords. Think creatively to brainstorm alternatives!
Sample Topic: Group Therapy for kids struggling with the loss of a family member.
Step 1 - Identify the main ideas - Group Therapy for kids struggling with the loss of a family member
Step 2 - Brainstorm Broader, Related and Narrower Terms. Consider the language that an expert would use.
Adding additional keywords to your search can help to further narrow your topic.
Example: college AND first-generation students AND academic performance
Use a filter
Look on the left side for ways you can filter your materials. Here are a few to consider, depending on your needs.
material type - such as a book, newspaper article, or review
peer-reviewed - to find scholarly articles
date - typically to find the most current materials
subject - to find articles about a certain topic
Found too few results?
Try different search terms.
What other words could you use to describe this concept? Brainstorm related terms, synonyms, and slightly different forms of your word or phrase. Also brainstorm broader categories or concepts it belongs to, as well as narrower elements or examples.
It may also be useful to consider the official, academic, or formal way to write that term. This is more likely to be used in academic writing.
Use fewer search terms.
Sometimes less is more! The more words, phrases, or subjects you ask the database to find, the fewer sources will meet the criteria.
Broaden your search by using the boolean operator OR to link your terms.
Example: (college OR higher education OR university) AND first-generation students AND (academic performance OR student success)
Finding one article on your topic can often lead to a lot more! Browse the references of the article to find sources cited in their literature review. The authors are likely experts on the topic and have already done the searching for you!
Some tools can also help you find sources that have cited the one you are reading since it was published. By nature, these will be more recent!
There is often a feature built into library databases that provides a linked list of references. 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).
Don't see that option? You can manually copy that title into Spartan Search, ideally in quotation marks, to look for the full text. If you don't find your article, you can try searching on Google Scholar to see if there is a free copy available. Free copies are linked to the right of the article title.