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Searching Tips

Effective searching techniques to help you find information

Keyword Searching

  • To search the Library's databases, don't type in a question. Choose the most important words to describe your topic. These are called keywords.
  • Keyword searching finds items, by matching the words you type, to the words in an item's record (which could include the title, author, contents, or subject fields, or in the body of the text of an article.)
  • Since it is matching just the spelling of the words, and not the meaning, you may get some unexpected results. 
    • ​Example: a search for "aids" may include results for hearing aids, nurses' aids, visual aids, as well as the disease, aids
  • It will only search for the words you type, so it won't find other words with the same meaning (synonyms)
    • Example: a search for "dog" may not necessarily result in articles that use the word "canine" instead
  • Note that words like "effect" "vs." or "versus" or "impact" may be unnecessary. You may be limiting your results because articles that don't have these words might not come up. So if you are not getting many results, try searching without them to see if you get more results.

You can use the following search strategies to make a keyword search more accurate: boolean operators and phrase searching.

Keyword Searching: Watch the Video

Subject Searching

The terms used in Subject Searching are determined by an Information Professional. They examine the item and determine what it is about, and then assign the Subject Headings from a list of pre-determined terms, called a "controlled vocabulary." 

  • A Subject Search will result in very relevant items.
  • You don't have to type in all synonyms for a word because they will be assigned the same subject heading 
  • But we may not always know exactly what words are used for a particular subject
  • You could do a keyword search first, find a relevant item, and then look at that item to see what subject heading is assigned to it. Many times Subject Headings are clickable links.
    • Example: if I type in the keyword "death penalty" and look at my item, I see the subject is "Capital Punishment."   


  • So now you know if you typed in "capital punishment" as a subject search you could get results that include items that also use the words such as "death penalty," "execution," "death row," "lethal injection," etc. in one search 


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