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ELAS 980: Find Sources: Unit Topics

Search Strategies

Search Strategies for Bringing Dreams to Life:

One might think that the keyword "dreams" would help you find content, but it is more likely going to bring up results about dreaming and psychology (e.g. bad dreams, what do dreams mean, sleep cycles, etc.). Instead, consider using a combination of keywords, such as "dreams and goals" or "dreams or aspirations". Think of synonyms for dreams, such as ambitions, aspirations, goals, objectives, etc. Combine them with the words for the goal, such as dreams and "starting a business" or goals and graduating with honors.

Search Strategies for Say It Your Way:

When thinking of language creations and changes, perhaps try thinking of keywords like slang or using a new word combined with a keyword representing linguistics such as "on fleek" and lexicon or dictionary. Other ideas might be to explore regional variations using keywords such as patois or vernacular.

Some recommended databases for this topic are below. 

Search Strategies for To the Rescue!:

Considering this topic, one of the obvious search terms would be "rescue", however that keyword alone is not specific enough. You may want to consider other keywords to narrow your search, such as animal (or cat, dog, etc...) or heroic (police, firefighter, EMT, etc.).

Search Strategies for Beyond the Limits:

Think of keywords that describe individuals who went beyond their limitations. If you have the name of a person, you can try searching for that individual. Consider using " " around more than one word to keep it as a phrase. For example "Temple Grandin" as opposed to Temple Grandin. If you are not sure of an individual, consider a condition, such as "hearing impairment" and perhaps the word famous or celebrity or overcoming.

Search Strategies for Stress: Friend or Foe?:

Another obvious search term is stress, but this is again too broad alone. You  might want to consider keywords such as advantages or disadvantages or benefits or harm along with the keyword stress.

Search Strategies for Treasured Places:

This topic has some flexibility, as one can discuss oceans and seas, coral reefs, and other underwater features. If one chooses to discuss environmental impact on these locations, consider using keywords such as pollution, bleaching, plastic, etc...in combination with the keyword describing the feature of place.

Search Strategies for Live and Learn:

Consider keywords that describe the rise of the Internet and its impact on learning. Some keywords might be Internet (social media, websites, world wide web, the web, online, etc...) and learning (education, school, information, etc.).

Some search strategies for Do It Yourself:

Think of some synonyms for D.I.Y. like crafting, repairing, making, creating, etc. As well, you can try the search "D.I.Y." or "do it yourself" or "do-it-yourself". You could also try adding keywords to the concept, such as "D.I.Y. and fashion" or "do it yourself and repair" or "diy and sound or recording".

Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. You'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas: the keywords.

Keywords are individual words or short phrases that represent the main ideas in your topic, thesis, or research question. 

Example Question: Should the federal government be able to regulate content on the internet? 

Keywords: federal government, regulate, content, Internet 

After you've identified your main ideas and some keywords to start with, think of additional search terms for each concept. These can be synonyms, related ideas, broader terms, or narrower terms. Since a database will match only what you type, using different terms for similar ideas can help you find more articles. 

Example Search Terms: 

  • federal government: Congress, legislative branch, laws
  • regulate: oversee, allow, "freedom of speech," censorship
  • content: information, misinformation, language
  • internet: websites, "social media," memes, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok

Check out the topic tabs for some further ideas once you understand the basics of searching.

Now that you have identified keywords, you will combine them in the database search box. Try more than one combination to find different sources! 

Use the search operators AND & OR to combine your search terms. â€‹Use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase, with the words in that exact order: "social media" 

Use AND between your main ideas to narrow your search (all words will be found in each source): 
  • government and regulate and Internet and "free speech" 
  • government and regulate and content and "social media" 

Diagram shows overlap between gov't & free speech

Use OR to look for related search terms, in one search (at least one of the search words will be found in each source). This will increase the number of sources you find. Put related search terms in parentheses, and combine with other terms: 
  • government and regulate and (Internet or "social media")

Diagram shows social media & internet highlighted

Research Skills & Tips:

Filter Results:

To make your results more manageable, use the database filters to refine the search results by full-text access, source types, publication date, and other factors that serve your research purposes.

  • Full-text access: Some databases will list search results that we do not have access to through the MC Library subscription. To avoid this, select "full text." (This option is automatically selected in RaptorSearch.)
  • Source types: If you know you only need peer-reviewed journal articles, select peer reviewed. Or, if you want to see only magazine articles, e-books, or another type of source, you can select only what you need. 
  • Publication date: If your sources must be from within the last five years, you can set the year of publication to reflect that. 

These options may be located in different areas of the database results list. In RaptorSearch, the options will be on the left.

You can also set these options before you search from the Advanced Search screen in most databases. 

Sort Results:

Most database search results will be sorted by relevance. You can change this to sort by newest first, oldest first, etc. Look for the sort options near the top of the results list. 

Find Sources for ELAS 980

Step 2: Find Sources

"Find Sources." Magnifying Glass.

To find sources, start by thinking about your research questions and the type of information you need. For example, you may need to search in different places to find statistics than you would if you need to find images. 

This page provides tips for how to develop a search strategy, and also links to search tools you can use to find specific types of sources. 

As you search, consider the tips on the Evaluating Sources page, and assess each article, book, website or other source that you find.