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HSS4: Toni Morrison

Search Strategy Worksheet

Use the worksheet below as an exercise to help you:

  1. Articulate your topic.
  2. Break down the topic into its main concepts.
  3. Turn those concepts into search terms.
  4. Come up with related terms (synonyms, broader and narrower terms).
  5. Manipulate your search terms with boolean operatos (AND, OR, NOT), truncation, and wildcard characters.
  6. Get optimal results!

This process gives you strategic options to use when formulating a search or when your search results are not satisfactory, whether you are searching for books in a library catalog, articles in a specialized database, or websites using Google or any general Internet search tool.

Search Strategy Tips & Tricks

When you find a really good article or book for your topic (whether or not you have immediate access to the complete item):

  • If there is a detailed citation or reference to the item (aside from the brief citation or the full text of the item), look at it carefully. Usually there are assigned subject terms (aka descriptors, subject headings, index terms, controlled terms). Using these terms can improve the quaity of your search results, making the search both more targeted and more comprehensive. General keyword searching is not as thorough as using subject terms.
  • Look at the items referenced by the author in the bibliography, footnotes, or list of references. You may want to track down some of these. This method is sometimes referred to as 'following the bibliography.'
  • Try searching for other items written by the same author.
  • If the article comes from a journal that is closely related to your topic, try browsing the tables of contents of other issues of the same journal (e.g., Technology and Culture).
  • Don't give up on finding the complete item if there is no link to it online. Save the citation and we will help you locate it. Contact a reference librarian!
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