This research guide was created to assist you in locating, evaluating, and using resources on a variety of topics of interest to the military. Thank you to UMUC faculty member Rich Powers for his many contributions to this guide.
Learning the basics of how to search will save you much time and frustration. These tips and techniques can be used for any research you may be doing, no matter what the topic might be.
- Finding and Combining Search Terms: Using OR
- Finding and Combining Search Terms: Using AND
- Excluding Search Terms: Using NOT
- Searching for an Exact Phrase: Using Quotation Marks
- Finding Variations of Search Terms: Using Truncation
- Keyword Searching
- Subject Searching
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.
NOTE: In order to designate a phrase quotation marks are
used. Otherwise the database may search Soviet Union and view these as two
distinct terms. Case also does not matter when searching.
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.
There may be times when you need to exclude a term altogether in order to focus your search.
library databases work similarly to Google -- that is, when you want to search
for an exact phrase rather than for separate keywords, you should enclose the
phrase within quotation marks.
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 as well as phrases, 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.
If you are unsure of the correct vocabulary for a particular database, begin with a keyword search, sometimes referred to as a default search.
Keyword searching looks for the search term(s) anywhere in the record for an article, which means that the keyword(s) could be located in the article's title, abstract, or body, or the keyword might be a subject term that the database uses. A keyword search usually retrieves numerous records, many of which may prove to be totally unrelated to your topic. But keyword searching is a perfectly acceptable way to begin a database search; you can always narrow your search if you find that too many records are retrieved.
Subject terms (also
sometimes called descriptors) are words that are chosen from a set list and that
are used by the editors of a database to describe all of the articles in the
database that deal with a particular topic.
lf you are unsure of the specific subject/descriptor term that a database uses for your topic, try first conducting a keyword search. Then, when you find an article that looks useful for your topic, open up the record for that article (by clicking on the article title) and take a look at the subject terms that the database's editors assigned to the article.
You can then re-run your search using those subject terms instead of or in addition to the terms that you originally used. This should retrieve articles that are more relevant to your research topic.
Some databases also include an online thesaurus in which you can enter a keyword and see the terms that the database uses for your keyword. Consulting a database's thesaurus is especially useful as a way of finding related terms that you might not have considered.