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EGR390: Special Topics in Engineering: Search Tips

N. Ismail, Fall 2015

Search Tips

Whether you are searching for scholarly articles in a library database or other kinds of information,
it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.

 

STEP 1
Write down as much information about your topic as possible. Answer the following questions:

  • What is your topic?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know? What don't you know?

Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.

EXAMPLE: I would like to learn more about the effects of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP's) on the environment, in particular, water quality, and methods of their removal, including direct photolysis.

STEP 2
Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.

EXAMPLE: pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCP's), water, direct photolysis

STEP 3
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 focusing your search.

pharmaceuticals and personal care products
 

PPCP*
 

cosmetic*

preservative*

 

*=wildcard; will find variations in a word.

water

water quality 

environment*

direct photolysis

removal mechanism*

degradation

photodegradation

photochemical

ou will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between
concepts. For instance:

("pharmaceuticals and personal care products" OR ppcp)  AND  water  AND  (direct photolysis OR degradation) 

Download this worksheet (with bonus search tips!) to help you organize your search strategy.

 

Need Help?

Have questions?
Contact Rocco Piccinino, x2951, rpiccini@smith.edu

Or use Ask a Librarian! to live (chat) during Reference Desk hours.