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Art

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Emily Connor Dafoe
Contact:
Emily Connor Dafoe
Research & Instruction Librarian
Allen Memorial Library
Valley City State University
t. 701-845-7287

Basic Search Tips

Use Keywords

Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. So you'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - the KEYWORDS.

Ask yourself what words, if removed, would make the question no longer the same question? Those are your keywords! 

Example Topic: What was the impact of Expressionists on modern art?

The specifics of your topic will matter when selecting sources, but for searching you only need the most essential components.

Keywords: Expressionists, modern art

 

Use synonyms

Most words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!

Keep an Eye Out

Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.

Use Search Tools

When searching it is helpful to take advantage of the tools built into the database you are using. Most databases have the same tools, but it may look a little different. These tools can usually be found along the side of the screen when viewing your results. 

Some key tools that you want to look out for: 

  • Subject: Think of subjects as official hashtags. Use them to find sources about that subject.
  • Date Range: Limit your search to sources published between specific years.
  • Peer Reviewed: Limit your search to scholarly journal articles.
  • Full Text: Make sure all of the results are available to read in full (or you could interlibrary loan the source!).

Evaluate your sources

Before you decide to use a source it is important to critically evaluate the resource. Here are some areas you want to evaluate: 

Authority

  • Is the author an expert in their field?
  • Do they have credentials?
  • Are they affiliated with a university?
  • Are they trustworthy?

Purpose

  • What is the intention of publishing this source?
  • Are they trying to convince you or inform you?
  • Is there an obvious bias?
  • Is the argument balanced or is it just presenting one side of the argument?

Relevance

  • Is the focus of your source relevant to your research topic?

Date

  • Is this source out of date?

Documentation

  • Does this source cite other sources?

Advanced Search Tips

Too many results? 

Try adding AND in between your keywords. This will combine your search terms and will narrow your results. The AND is usually built into the database and you will see it between the different search bars. For example: searching for globalization AND economy will give you results that only include both terms. 

 

You can also put your keyword into quotation marks if the term is a phrase or multiple words. For example: searching for "United States" will only retrieve results for "United States" but searching United States you may find results about the United Kingdom.  

Not enough results? 

Try adding OR in between your keywords. This will give you results that include either word. This is helpful when searching for a topic that could be called a number of different terms (USA, America, United States, etc.). The OR is usually built into the database and you will see it between the different search bars. For example: searching for globalization or economy will give you results that only include both terms. 

You can also add a * at the end of your root word to find more results. For example: searching for educ* will get you results for education, educator, educated, educate, etc. 

Wrong results? 

Try adding NOT in between your keywords. This will give you results that only include one word. 

The NOT is usually built into the database and you will see it between the different search bars. 

For example: 

searching for globalization NOT economy will give you results that are about globalization but do not discuss economic issues.