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ENGL 1102 Harrison: Literature in Context: Advanced Search Strategies

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Here are some tips to get the most out of your search tools.

Use Advanced Search

Image from advanced search

Advanced Search tools give you more control over your search.

Look for...

  • Multiple Boxes. These allow you to easily combine search terms in complex ways.
  • Dropdown boxes in the search function. You can specify if the search term is the subject, author, literary work, etc. You can also search "all text" or "full text," meaning the search term can be located anywhere in the article.
  • Narrow by discipline. For example, if you are looking for depression, do you want to search within literature, history, medical, or psychology resources?
  • More options - For example, you may expand your search to synonyms or restrict your search to only resources you can access full text in the databases.

Get to Know your Database

Look at the information about the Database in the A-Z list and in the "Help" or "About" links in the database.

Find out....

  • What kinds of materials are in it? (Articles, ebooks, videos?)
  • Does it contain scholarly or non-scholarly materials or both?
  • Is it made for a beginning, intermediate, or expert audience?
  • Are there extra features like browsing lists or specialized searches?

Pro Tips for Searching

1. Use AND, OR, and NOT to connect your search terms.

Sometimes required, sometimes optional, these words define how your search terms relate to each other.

2. Use Quotation marks around phrases.

For example, "Black Cat" will tell the search engine you want the words as a phrase, not separate search terms.

Asterisks (Decorative)

3. Go wild with Wildcards 

Wildcard symbols, most often an asterisk, are like a "Fill in the blank" in your search term.

For example, teach* will search for

  • teach
  • teacher
  • teaching
  • teaches

Keywords vs. Subjects

Keywords can be words in the title, author, subject, description, and sometimes in the text of the article.

Subjects are special words assigned to describe a main topic of the article, book etc.

For example

  • "Poe" as a keyword could be by Poe, about Poe, have Poe in the title, or mention Poe in the article.
  • "Poe" as a subject means the book or article is about Poe.

For more, see this video:

Poe example illustration.