During our first library research day, I offered some tips and tricks for research in English Studies in particular. We covered some important things:
- Using both catalog and database searches separately rathe rather than relying on the primary “discovery services” box.
- Using the MLA International Bibliography as a key database for literary research. Other databases are relevant for history or psychology or medicine. You can find relevant databases for any field by clicking on the “research guides” tab on the main library homepage. “Academic Search Complete” is another nice all-encompassing database for more pop-cultural and journalistic sources.
- The importance of using multiples keyword search terms to try to get at the best sources.
- Using the EBSCO interface to help limit your search by subject, year, kind of artifact (book, peer-reviewed article, review, etc.)
- How to truncate a search word using the “*” feature, so that “tele*” searches telephone, telepathic, television, etc
- The MLA handbook covered how to craft more specialized searches using parentheses, quotation marks and “AND” and “OR” operators
- How to find library of congress subjects in the record for any individual entry to lead you to other relevant sources under a similar subject designation.
Whatever you do, it’s all about trying different strategies: searching “stephen king” and “edgar allen poe” as keyword searches might not get you anywhere, but finding the subject heading for “King, Stephen” and then adding “Poe” to the search gets you a ton of things. This isn’t google. It’s not out to get you anything you might want. It’s only going to get you exactly what you asked for, and depending on where your search terms appear in the record, that might be a lot, or it might be a little.
If you still feel like you’re not finding what you want, there are some very helpful tutorials below from the library that get into details on search strategies.