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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 5. Search Techniques


Keywords and Other Ways to Search

How to Search a Database

When doing research for a paper, you will get your best results by using good search techniques.  We are all used to using Google to find things easily, but Google is not the best tool for the first steps of college-level research.  It's much more efficient and productive to use library databases, and to learn a few good skills so that when you do use Google, you can use it effectively.

First, you'll want to choose the right database for the job you want to do.  Check out this video on choosing databases:

Learn to use keywords to search well:

Once you know how to use keywords effectively, you can combine them to get more focused results:

As you search, think about:

  • Do you need to broaden your search out, or narrow it down to a tighter focus?
  • As you search, you'll see synonyms or similar terms that may be useful.  Write them down and try them out.
  • Try different combinations of words.  Good research involves many searches, not just one.
  • If you are only getting a few results in a search, check your spelling.  Databases can't correct for misspellings.

The library has many videos on research skills and using particular databases.  See more videos about research skills here!

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