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ELSJ 9: Social Issues Research

Searching Tips

Constructing Your Search Statement

Searching a database is not like searching Google. You cannot use natural language to describe what you need. You need to use keywords describing your topic and boolean operators (and, or) to link your keywords.

For example, if your topic is "Plagiarism on college campuses around the country", you need to find the best keywords to describe your topic. I would suggest:

                         plagiarism and college students

 (Notice the AND between your keywords. By using the boolean operator AND, you are telling the database that you want all these keywords to be included in the results)

For each of these keywords, you need to think about possible synonyms. For example:

                         plagiarism or cheating

(Notice the OR between your synonyms. By using OR, you are telling the database that any of these terms would be acceptable in the results of your search)

A complex search statement for your topic would look like this:

(plagiarism or cheating)  and college students

But most of the databases now provide multiple search boxes to make your search easier. In each box, you enter one keyword, or several synonyms.

Choosing the Right Database

The library subscribes to so many databases that it is sometimes difficult to choose the right one.  If you are not sure which one to choose, use the Database by subject list on the library web page.  For example if you are writing a paper on women's suffrage in the United States, you may want to choose a database for history such as America: History and Life, but you might also try some of the databaes specialized for women's studies.

 Locating  the full-text of an article:

If the full-text of an article is not available in a database you are using, do the following:

  • click on Find It@SCU Libraries:

        * Is the article available in another database (e.g., Wilson OmniFile, JSTOR)? If so, click on the link and follow the citation information (e.g., volume, issue, date of publication, etc.)
        * Does the library have this journal in print? Click on the OSCAR record and request the journal issue from the ARS (Automated Retrieval System)

  • If none of the above work, you can request the article from another library via Interlibrary Loan & LINK+.