Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database, it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.
Write down as much information about your topic as possible. (You can use encyclopedias and other reference books to help gather background information). Answer the following questions:
Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.
EXAMPLE: I would like to learn about the future of engineering design and transportation.
Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.
EXAMPLE: future, engineering design, transportation
Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focussing your search.
*=wildcard; will find variations in a word. In this case, those after the letter "g."
Add other terms to further narrow the search.
You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between concepts. For instance:
(engineering OR design) AND (future OR innovation OR vision) AND (transport* OR auto OR car* OR airplane)
Download this worksheet (with bonus search tips!) to help you organize your search strategy.