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IWU OCLS Tutorials: Develop a Search Strategy - Improve Your Results


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Too Many Results?


Don't panic. This is normal and can be fixed.

Below are a few tips to help you revise and narrow down your search to get more relevant information on your topic. 

  • Review the abstracts.
    • Are they applicable to your topic?
  • Look for additional terms and keywords.
    • In some cases, you fill find that the industry or different authors use different termiology. 
      • For example: alternative energy = green energy, renewable energy, clean energy
  • Use the Subject Terms. 
    • The Subject line below each record list the subject terms for that article.
    • Use these terms in your search to find information that doesn't just mention your keyword and is about your topic.
    • Remember to change the drop-down of the database you are using to search for Subject Terms or Subject Headings. 
    • For example: online networks = subject terms are online social networks and social media




Put off the Training Wheels - We're Advanced Searching Now


Almost every database offers an Advanced search link.  

This will allow you to search for terms in a specific field. 

  1. Title
  2. Author
  3. Subject
  4. Publication title



Advanced Searching Tricks



Limiters are used to reduce the number of items retried and make the ones you get more relevant. In most databases, these limiters can be found on the search results page or on the Advanced Search page. 

  • Full-text
    • The library owns a copy, and you have immediate access. 
  • Peer-reviewed or scholarly
    • Returns only peer-reviewed or scholarly items. 
  • Particular author(s) or publications
  • Specific subject terms
    • A librarian or indexer reviews the material and assigns subject terms so the items will be about your topic. 
  • A specific date or date range
    • Helpful when your assignment requires you to have articles written within a specific time (e.g., 5 years). 


Proximity Searching

The closer in proximity the terms are, the more likely they relate to one another. 


Question: "Is leadership learned or is it an innate ability?"

Search: (innate w2 leader*) or (learn* w2 leader*)

This will find the terms within two words of each other.


Some databases use the "n" instead of the "w" for near. Each database handles searching differently, so you will want to review their help section for search tips. 



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  • Librarians may not be available all open hours, but will answer ASAP.