Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Research Skills & Tools


In this section of the Information Literacy Tutorial you will learn how to search the library catalog and online databases more effectively. You will learn how to develop research strategies, which tools will help you find the types of resources you need, how to use search tools effectively to narrow and/or broaden your searches, the differences between subject and keyword searching, and how to correctly interpret search results/records.

  1. Develop a Research Strategy by:
    1. Defining the Key Concepts and Terms
    2. Determining how much detail is required:
      1. General and/or specific.
      2. Quantitative and/or narrative.
      3. Recent or historical information.
    3. Determining what type of information you need:
      1. Primary and/or secondary
        sources.
      2. Facts and figures.
      3. Review or survey information.
      4. Discussions of your topic.
      5. Analysis of your subject.
    4. Determining what types of sources to use:
      1. Books, bibliographies, and government documents provide reviews or surveys.
      2. Facts and figures are found in statistics.
      3. Analyses can be found in periodicals (journals or magazines).
      4. A discussion of an event can be seen or heard on news reports, radio programs, or
        documentaries
    5. Locating the information sources:
      1. Look for books, bibliographies, government documents and documentaries in the
        library catalog .
      2. Search periodical databases for articles from journals and
        magazines.
      3. Find statistics through UACCH Library’s links to
        Statistical Resources.
      4. Find documentaries with the library catalog.

  2. The Search Process: Begin by searching for your keywords in the library catalog and online databases. Databases and catalogs search the records of every item in them and provide a list of matching results, usually in the form of a citation. A citation provides all or most of the information needed to locate the item it is describing in either print or electronic form.
    1. A citation in a catalog provides the call number for the item and all of
      its bibliographic information (author, title, date of publication, place of
      publication and publisher).
    2. A brief record in an online periodical database usually contains all of
      the information that is included in a bibliographic citation. In most
      databases, clicking on the article’s title will take you to the full record
      which includes:
      1. the bibliographic information broken down into its labeled parts (author,
        title, source),
      2. subject headers/descriptors that describe the general topics of the
        article,
      3. an abstract or brief summary of the article, and
      4. sometimes there will be a hot link to the full text of the article.
    3. The default search in most catalogs and online periodical databases
      is a keyword search. The database retrieves items that have your search
      term anywhere in the item’s record (any part of the bibliographic citation,
      abstract, or the full text of the article).

  3. Advanced Searching Methods
    1. Combining Terms with Boolean Operators
      1. AND will retrieve items indexed by both terms. AND is useful
        when you are retrieving too many items in your searches – it helps you
        narrow your search and retrieve smaller result sets.
        Example: ground water AND contamination
      2. OR will retrieve items that are indexed by either or both search
        terms. OR is useful when you need to find more resources – it helps
        you broaden your search and retrieve larger result sets.
        Example: groundwater OR ground water
      3. NOT will retrieve items that are described by one search term
        but not by the other search term. NOT is useful when you are
        retrieving items that are not really related to your topic – it helps
        you narrow your search and be more exacting.
        Example: ((ground NOT lake) AND water) AND contamination
    2. Phrase Searching allows searching for an exact prase by enclosing terms
      within quotation marks.
      Example: “psychological fiction”
    3. Wildcard (?) and Truncation (*) Symbols are used to create
      searches where there are unknown characters, multiple spellings or various
      endings. Neither the wildcard nor the truncation symbol can be used as the
      first character in a search term.
      1. The wildcard is represented by a question mark (?).
        To use the wildcard, enter your search terms and replace each unknown
        character with a ?. The database finds all citations of that
        word with the ? replaced by a letter. Example: type ne?t
        to find all citations containing neat, nest or next. Net is not
        included in the results because the wildcard replaces a single
        character.
      2. Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use truncation,
        enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with
        an *.
        The database finds all forms of that word. Example: type comput*
        to find the words computer or computing.
    4. Proximity Searching is used to search for two or more words that occur
      within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the
      database(s). Proximity searching is used with a keyword or Boolean search.
      The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number
      (to specify the number of words). The proximity operator is placed between
      the words that are to be searched, as follows:

      1. Near Operator (N)N5 finds the words if they are within
        five words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.
        Example: type tax N5 reform to find results that would match
        tax reform as well as reform of income tax.
      2. Within Operator (W) – In the following example, W8 finds
        the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order
        in which uou entered them. Example: type tax W8 reform to find
        results that would match tax reform but would not match reform of
        income tax.