Searching for Books and Articles on a Topic
To create a database search, you will break your research topic into concepts and then look for keywords and synonyms.
For example, say you are interested in The air quality effects of burning prairie.
- Use single words or short phrases. Usually, a database will have an "Advanced Search" option for searching multiple terms at once. Enter each piece of your topic on its own line. Use AND between different concepts when you want all of them. These would be the pieces of your search:
- air quality
- Use phrases and truncation/wildcards.
- Quotation marks keep phrases together like "air quality".
- An asterisk at the end of the word finds any word that begins with the letters you type, so burn* will get burn, burned, burning.
- Some databases have additional options; look for a help link to find them.
- Try synonyms. Use OR when you want either word. Keep each concept on its own line.
- "air quality" OR respiration OR environment*
- burn* OR fire OR "smoke management"
- prairie OR "flint hills"
Here is an example of how that search would look in the database Agricola
- If you don't get enough results
- Broaden your search by removing one or more of your terms. In the above search, you could remove "prairie OR flint hills" to find articles about the topic that aren't geographically specific.
- Search for new terms
- If your database has a thesaurus, search for your term there.
- Read the article for its content, but also keep an eye on new terms or phrases. Try another search with those terms.
- When you find a relevant article, look for Subjects or Descriptors that are assigned to the article. Sometimes you can click on these terms to build and run another search.
Getting the Articles
Many of the articles you find will be available online.
If you don’t see the full text on the database you are searching, use the Get It button to see if the full text of the article is available through another source.
If you find a citation to something that we don’t own, most of the time we can borrow it from another library. Please allow yourself enough time to do this! Interlibrary Loan usually gets materials very quickly, but it can take 2-5 business days for articles and 3-10 business days for books (or longer if you are off campus). Click on “Not Available? Request from Interlibrary Loan” from the Get It menu or “Interlibrary Loan” on the library home page. For more information, see our Interlibrary Services page.