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SOC 321 (Cannon): Search Tips

Phrase Searching

In most databases, and in Google, enclosing words between quotation marks means "search for these words next to each other, in order."

Truncation

In most databases, if you type the beginning of a word and then type an asterisk (*), the database will match any word that begins with those letters. For instance:

  • politic* matches politician, political, politics
  • therap* matches therapy, therapist, therapeutic

Some exceptions:

LexisNexis Academic

To truncate a word in LexisNexis Academic, use an exclamation point (!). For instance, politic!

Google

Google does not have this feature because it applies truncation (and many other "fuzzy" search techniques) automatically.

Matching Multiple Words with "OR"

In most databases, when you type a bunch of words, the system searches for records that include all of those words. If you connect words or phrases together with the word OR, database will match any of the words you type. For instance:

  • "motion pictures" OR cinema
  • "venereal disease" OR syphilis OR gonorrhea
  • "health care" OR healthcare OR "medical care"

You need to be careful to either put the OR statement in parentheses, or in its own box on an Advanced Search screen. Otherwise you may get lots of results since the system will ignore most of your search query.

Here is a search that will find articles that contain the phrase Hurricane Katrina as long as they also contain the word corruption or the term mismanagement:

Phraise hurricane katrina in one box, corruption OR mismanagement in another

Here is a search that will be less successful:

Phrase hurricane katrina in one box, corruption in the next, and OR mismanagement last

Since it has OR mismanagement in the last box, it will retrieve all the articles that have the word mismanagement, whether or not they also contain the phrase Hurricane Katrina.

Leave out Extras

It's better to leave out minor connecting words such as with, during, in, etc. Sometimes databases ignore these, but other times they don't, and your search results suffer as a result. Compare the following two searches:

Just by removing the word during, we got a lot more good results.

LIBX Extension

For quick searching of library sources, give this a try. Available for Firefox and Chrome browsers.