How to Do Library Research

Start Your Search

Choose Your Keywords

Once you've made sure you understand your assignment and know your research topic, it's time to select your keywords. Certain words from your topic may not be relevant to the search, as demonstrated in the example below. You should only use the most important elements as keywords.

Example: Does exercise reduce BMI in overweight youth?

Synonyms for Example Keyword Search
exercise overweight youth
"physical activity" obese pediatric
movement obesity child

Add Connectors

Since library databases work differently than Google, you may notice that putting a sentence or question into the Search Everything box on the library homepage doesn’t give you relevant results. Often called “Boolean operators,” connectors ANDOR and NOT will make the database search for your keywords in a specific way.

Tip! Capitalize connectors so the databases see them as connectors and not keywords to search.

Connectors AND, OR, NOT
AND (-) NOT (-) OR (+)
Shrinks your search results Shrinks your search results Expands your search results
Only shows results that contain both keywords Will exclude any results that have a second keyword Allows for either keyword or an intersection of both
Example: I want both overweight and youth in my search results. Example: I only want overweight, I do not want youth in my search results. Example: I'm fine with either overweight or youth, or even both in my search results.

Use Advanced Search Strategies

There are a few things you can do to help make your searches more precise and possibly retrieve more relevant results.

  • Use quotation marks around a set of keywords to search those exact words as a phrase.
    • Example: "physical activity"  
  • Use the asterisk (*) at the end of a root word to search all the endings of a word.
    • Example: obes* will search for obese, obesity, etc. 
  • Use parentheses to group related terms together.
    • Example: (exercise OR "physical activity" OR movement) 

Build a Search Statement

Here is how you put it all together in a search statement: (exercise OR "physical activity" OR movement) AND (obes* OR overweight) AND (youth OR pediatric OR child OR adolescent)

Find Articles, Books and Newspapers

For information on how to limit your results to articles, eBooks or newspaper articles, watch the videos below.

Watch the How to Find Articles video
Watch the How to Find eBooks video Watch the How to Find Newspapers video