Welcome, this research guide will assist you in locating, evaluating, and using scholarly resources for United States history from 1932-1945, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, The Great Depression, and World War II. Here you will find listed a variety of resources to help you as you conduct your research.
Searching Tips and Techniques
Searching Tips and Techniques
How do I search?
Learning the basics of how to search will save you much time and frustration. These tips and techniques are the same for any research you may be doing, no matter what the topic might be.
Finding and Combining Search Terms: Using OR
Determining the correct search terminology is “half the battle.” To begin this process list possible search terms and include any synonyms, using OR between each word. For example, if you are searching for books regarding Franklin D. Roosevelt you will also want to use FDR in your search phrase. Your search could look like this:
"franklin delano roosevelt" OR fdr
Finding and Combining Search Terms: Using AND
If you want more than one term to be included in your search use AND between the terms. This is used to narrow a search. For example, if you want to locate research on Franklin Delano Roosevent and the New Deal your search will look like this:
"franklin delano roosevelt" OR fdr AND "new deal"
[NOTE: Some databases are not set up to automatically phrase search. The quotation marks serve to designate a phrase.]
Finding and Combining Search Terms: Using NOT
There may be times when you need to exclude a term altogether in order to focus your search. For example, perhaps you want to exclude the WPA. Your search will look like this:
"franklin delano roosevelt" OR fdr AND "new deal" NOT "WPA"
Finding and Combining Search Terms: Using Parentheses
Each database has its own search mechanisms. Some databases may require that you use parentheses to group terms, especially when using OR. The example search, using parentheses, will look like this:
("franklin delano roosevelt" OR fdr) AND "new deal" NOT "WPA"
When parentheses are used, those terms inside the parentheses are searched first. If more than one set of parentheses are included, usually the one on the left is searched first. For some databases there are no differences in the search results between using parentheses and not using them.
[NOTE: When using the advanced search format of most databases, parentheses are not necessary because there is a search box for each search term and its synonyms.]
Another useful trick is to truncate the search term.
- The usual symbol is an asterisk (*), but check the database HELP screen for to determine the symbol for that database.
- Although this is a useful tool, especially if you want to retrieve results with all possible word endings, it can also add unrelated items to your results.
- Some databases may not allow truncated words if the possible results are too large and if this happens add more of the root word.
The search example will now look like this:
("franklin d* roosevelt" OR fdr) AND "new deal" NOT "WPA"
If you are unsure of the correct vocabulary for a particular database, begin with a keyword search, sometimes referred to as default.
- Keyword searching looks for the term anywhere in the record, which means the word could be included in the title, abstract, full-text or be the subject term.
- This type of search usually brings back too many records, many which may prove to be totally unrelated,
- Keyword searching, however, may be the only option when a concept is so new that standardized vocabulary has not yet been developed.
You will find more focused results using the vocabulary that the database uses, usually referred to as the subject or descriptor.
- A subject/descriptor search looks only for results with that specified terms in the subject/descriptor field.
- lf you are unsure of the specific subject/descriptor term try doing a keyword search and when you find an article that looks like it may be useful, open up the record for that article and look at what terms the database uses to describe the content.
Some databases also include an online thesaurus, which provides a way of entering a possible search term to determine what term(s) the database uses for your suggested term. This is especially useful as a way of including related terms that you may not have considered.
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