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FYS195: Health and Wellness: Search Tips

Fall 2016, B. Brehm-Curtis

Search Tips

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.

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 find popular and peer reviewed articles and other kinds of information on childhood obesity.

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

EXAMPLE: obesity, children

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.

obesity
obese
overweight

 

 

 

 

child*

 




*=wildcard; will find variations in a word. In this case, those after the letter "d." 

Add other terms to narrow topic further:
pre-school
elementary school


gender
girl*

poor
poverty                    

 

 

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:

(obesity OR obese) AND child* AND gender

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

Watch Video (3 minutes):  Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy (UCLA Library)

 

Need Help?

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

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