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Search Techniques  

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2013 URL: Print Guide
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Quotation Marks


Use quotation marks to search for two or more words together.

With quotation marks. "Capital Punishment" = database will search for the word capital next to the word punishment:

Example: Capital punishment is illegal in many countries.

Without quotation marks. Capital Punishment = database will search for the word capital and the word punishment anywhere in the document.

Example: In the capital of China, Beijing, the punishment for speaking out against the government can be very severe.

Recommendation: Search with quotation marks and then search again without them, since this technique can sometimes backfire.

Using a Bibliography

Use a bibliography to track down more information

Control + F Technique: "Find in this Page"


Keywords & Subject Headings

Keywords are the words you use to search. Sometimes you have to play around with keywords for a while to find the right terms. As you do your research, keep a list of keywords that help you get to the information you are looking for. 

When you find a book or article that is useful, explore its subject headings, which are the categories that describe what it is about.

Learn more about the difference between keywords and subject headings from University Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Boolean Operators: AND, NOT, OR


When searching databases, use the word AND  between your keywords.

Example: "capital punishment" AND racism

If you have two similar terms, use the word OR. 

Example: "capital punishment" OR "death penalty" and racism

If you want to exclude a topic use the word NOT. Let's say you are getting too many results about Texas.

Example: "capital punishment" OR "death penalty" AND racism NOT Texas

Video explains how to use AND, NOT, and OR in 3 minutes! From San Francisco State University.


Truncating (Shortening)

File:OCR-A char Asterisk.svg

Use the asterisk to find all forms of a word. This saves you time. It's called truncating because you are truncating, or shortening, the word.

Example: If you are researching issues related to capital punishment and race, you can type "capital punishment" and rac*

rac* =

Example: If you are researching issues related to abolishing (ending) capital punishment, you can type "capital punishment" and aboli*

aboli* =

Book Reviews

When you read a book, it's useful to find book reviews about it. Book reviews will often help you figure out how you feel about a book. How do you find books reviews? It's easy: put the title of the book into SuperSearch and look for reviews. Watch this short video to see how.


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