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LRC (ULIB1001) - Search Basics: Part 1 - Introduction to Search Basics

Search Basics - Library Research in Context module 1

Developing Search Terms

 Journal articles are the backbone of academic research and the skills used to find them are applicable in other research activities. In this module, we're going show some practical steps for any kind of library research by finding journal articles in the Academic Search Elite database. 

  • The basic building blocks of effective searching are the words you use - search terms. Choosing effective terms is critical. 
  • To get good terms, though, you need to know the topic or thing you're looking for. I think of this in terms of concepts. The thing you want to know more about is a concept and you can describe a concept with different search terms - there might not be just one correct way to describe your concept. People between 12-20 years old might be called teenagers, adolescents or young adults, for example. 
  • Most often, you are not interested in merely one concept, but how different concepts relate to each other. It's not that you're interested in "young adults" as a concept, but "young adults" and also "study skills", for example.
  • The key is learning to describe each of your concepts with good search terms and learning to show the relationship you want between those concepts.

Background info - Imprecise language

This is optional background information about Natural Language Searching - what most folks do when they type a string of words into Google. 

1 - Thinking in terms of concepts

One of the fundamentals of searching for information on a topic is knowing how to describe what you want. It seems simple enough to type a word into Google or the library catalog or a database - you're certain to get some results. How often have you been frustrated by finding too many results that are not quite right or results that do not quite fit. Perhaps the word you used has several different meanings - spring can be a season, a device that uses coiled or bent metal to apply force, a natural source of water, a jump or leap, a slang term for getting someone out of jail, etc. Perhaps the authors writing the information you need use other words - you might be looking for things about teenagers and not finding things about adolescents. 

The trick is in thinking of ways to describe what you want and giving yourself flexibility. Think of a thing you can drive on a road that seats 1-5 passengers. How many words can you think of to describe that concept? After you've brainstormed, compare my answers to yours.

Read the following two short articles to prepare you for the activities on the following two tabs.

2. Intelligent Brainstorming

3. Next Steps

Having learned about some basic search techniques and primed yourself to think in terms of search concepts, move on to Part 2 - Search Terms