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How to Search the Library

How to "Speak Library"

Why Searching the Library is Different

The library's search tools work differently than other search engines you might be used to, like Google or Bing.

This is because, while Internet search engines are great for finding general information (about hockey scores, or restauraunt reviews, or the weather), they're poor at helping their users tell the difference between good information and bad information.

Doing research in the library requires more forethought and structure than searching Google -- and that's why the library computer needs you, the library user, to "talk" to it in a specific way.

So let's learn to speak Library!

Searching the Library, Step By Step

Step 1: Start at the Library Homepage

To get started, always begin at the library homepage.

You can get to the library through the Student Portal, through your course shell, or by going directly to

Step 2: Pick Your Search Tab

In the library search box at the top of the page, make sure you've selected the "Everything" tab. 

The "Everything" tab searches all of the Chamberlain University Library's databases, not just one or two. This gives you the best possible chance of finding material about your topic, no matter how obscure. 

The other tabs -- Articles, eBooks, and Videos -- allow you to search a limited selection of materials by type. This is great if you're doing a quick search for a weekly discussion post but may be too limiting if you're doing research for a paper.

You can also jump directly to a database like CINAHL or Cochrane -- but keep in mind that by searching those databases individually, you will only find whatever articles are in those specific collections. Sometimes, that's not very much!

Of course, if your professor has instructed you to use only CINAHL, or another database, you should always follow their instructions.

The good news is, everything you learn below will work no matter which tab or database you use!

Step 3: Use Good Keywords, Combined with AND or NOT

Now that we're in the right place, we need to speak the library's language.

Basically, the library computer wants you to find a few short keywords or key phrases that describe your topic, and combine them using the special words AND or NOT (in all caps!)

Let's talk about each part of that in turn.

Finding Good Keywords

To start thinking about "Keywords" or "Key Phrases," consider an example.

Let's say you've been asked to search the library for scholarly articles about the topic of "educating parents about diabetes in children." The trick to successful searching in the library is to take at that complex topic -- "educating parents about diabetes in children" -- and break it down into a few separate, simpler ideas.

In this case, you need articles that are about:

patient education

These are the "Keywords" or "Key Phrases" for your topic. A keyword is just one word that describes an idea -- "parents" or "diabetes," in our example -- and a key phrase uses two or three words to describe an idea -- like the phrase "patient education" in our example.

Keywords can be used right away. Key phrases need to have quotation marks put around them, as in:

"patient education"

That way, the library computer knows you're looking for that exact phrase, rather than either the word "patient" or the word "education" on its own.

Using AND and NOT

Now let's talk about those special words AND and NOT. These are technically called Boolean Operators, but that's just a fancy way of saying that you can use these two words to combine your keywords or phrases into something that the library computer understands.

What these special words tell the library computer is:

"I want to see articles that are about BOTH This Topic AND That Topic"


"I want to see articles about This Topic, BUT NOT about That Topic". 

So, for example, if you search for:

"patient education" AND parents AND diabetes AND children

You'll be shown articles that use all of those keywords, and your search results should be pretty relevant to our example topic.

If, by contrast, you searched for:

"patient education" AND diabetes NOT children NOT parents

You would only see articles that include the words "diabetes" and "Patient Education" but which exclude the words "children" or "parents" -- that would show you articles relevant to a topic like "Educating adult or adolescent diabetes patients".

You can add as many keywords to your search as you want! Just remember the pattern "AND keyword" or "NOT keyword".

"AND keyword" includes your keyword; "NOT keyword" excludes your keyword.

You can go on forever:

diabetes AND children AND Atlanta AND "public schools" AND nurses AND needles AND brands NOT parents NOT teachers NOT "skin care" NOT headaches.

Just keep in mind that the more "AND keyword" or "NOT keyword" items you add to your search, the fewer articles you'll see, because your search becomes more and more specific every time you add one.

Step 4: Limit to Full Text, Scholarly Articles from the Last Five Years

Once you hit search, you'll be taken to a list of search results. To make sure you're seeing scholarly, peer-reviewed articles from the last five years, you'll need to check two things.

Look to the left-hand side of the page and find the "Limit to" section.

In this section, you'll need to make sure that, first, the "Academic (Peer-Reviewed) Journals" box is checked, and that, second, the Publication Date range is set to the last five years. Each time you make a change in the "Limit to" section, the page will refresh. Once you've made those two changes, you'll be good to go!

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