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English Graduate Orientation

Search Strategies

Strategy

Definition

Appropriate Databases

Necessary Skills

Example

Natural Language

Type in search phrases as you would naturally write or speak them in a sentence.

Google

Google Scholar

None

Search with a sentence or longer phrase such as “Parenting lessons from other cultures” or “American parenting verses parenting in other cultures” 

Baseline-Keyword

Search with only one keyword or phrase.  The main function of a baseline search is to see how much information is available that uses that term in a database. 

Google

Google Scholar

Library Catalog

Library Databases

- Identifying Keywords

- Boolean Operators

Search for one word of phrase such as “Splenda” and find only 200 articles.  This means that any other words you add using the AND operator can only give fewer results, so 200 would be your baseline.  A baseline search can be expanded by using the OR operator like this: (Splenda or nonnutritive sweetener).  In this instance your baseline may be 300 articles.  The baseline will be different in each database because they will collect different sets of information, but you are still limited to the number of results for your baseline in that database

Baseline-Subject

A baseline search that begins with a subject heading instead of a keyword.

Library Catalog

Library Databases

- Identifying Keywords

- Boolean Operators

- Subject Headings

Choose a subject heading from the library of congress subject headings that applies to your topic.  From there you can expand your search by using the or operator.

Pronged

Begins by breaking your topic into variables and outcomes.  From there, search each variable with the desired outcome

Google

Google Scholar

Library Catalog

Library Databases

-  Identifying Variables

-  Identifying Keywords

- Boolean Operators

If you start with the research question “Why do we have obstacles in the US for women to receive paid maternity leave?”  You would begin by creating a list of variables that affect the outcome of paid maternity leave.  Then you would search each variable with the desired outcome. See these examples:

Financial burden AND “paid maternity leave”

Unemployment AND “paid maternity leave”

Parent-child bonding AND “paid maternity leave”

When compiling these results into a paper or project, you would take the results of each separate study found with these searches and combine them to form your argument.

Backward Citation Tracking

Start with an article that is well-focused on your topic and hunt through the references for other appropriate articles.  This strategy is retrospective in nature since you cannot have references that are newer than the article you begin with.

Google

Google Scholar

Library Catalog

- Reading and understanding a citation

- Tracking down full text

To use this strategy, you must first find an article that is very closely aligned with your topic.  (You can use the above strategies to find an article like this).   When reading this article, make note of any citations that are particularly applicable.  Look up the citation information in the references page and then search Google, Google Scholar, or the Library Catalog to get a copy of those articles.

Forward Citation Tracking

Starts with an article that is well-focused on your topic.  Then use the “cited by” option in google scholar to see what other articles have cited this work since it was published.  All of these citations will be newer than the original article.

Google Scholar

- Reading and understanding a citation

- Tracking down full text

To use this strategy, you must first find an article that is very closely aligned with your topic.  (You can use the above strategies to find an article like this).   Look up this article in Google Scholar and click the “Cited by” link under the article.  From there, you’ll need to know how to either track down the citation in the library, or request the full text from interlibrary loan.