Library Research Guide
Searching is easy, right? Just type thoughts, questions, ideas, words in the box and in milliseconds you get pages of results.
Learning a little about how to search will give you control over the process. You will save time, get results you actually want, and be proud of a search well-done.
Read this page for general information about searching and find tips for specific resources on the next tab (Where to Search).
If you still can't find what you want, it could be time to talk to a friend, mentor, or librarian!
K-State Libraries, your school library, the Kansas State Library, and your public library each pay to subscribe to search tools called databases; they are not found in an online search. Their content is created and maintained by various companies and organizations. Searching databases is different from searching the Internet.
Note: These vary from database to database. Google uses the minus sign (-) instead of NOT. Truncation and wildcards might have different symbols. In some databases symbols could represent a different number of letters depending on location in the word. Check the Advanced Search or Help page if you are getting strange results using these.
Before you start your search, it's important to make a list of keywords which are the most significant words to use when looking for materials online or in print.
Good keywords are essential to good research. Many search engines and databases don't understand full sentences. So you can't enter a topic sentence and expect to get good results. Develop a list of keywords before you start searching.
To start the list, ask yourself two questions:
Write the answers to those questions using single words or simple phrases. These become your keywords. The more keywords you can think of, the more likely you will find what you are looking for.
To expand or narrow a search using search terms, look for topics, subjects, or a thesaurus on the database. You can also find narrower, related, and broader terms in the Library of Congress Subject Headings.
Use OR for synonyms:
effect OR influence OR impact, conservation OR management OR protection
This query tells the database that at least one of the words per line must appear in your results.
Use AND to combine terms:
effect OR influence OR impact AND conservation OR management OR protection
To understand the concept, click on the image below to launch the interactive Boolean Machine.
Wildcards and Truncation (*) The asterisk is generally used as a truncation symbol when placed at the end of a word stem.
effect OR influence OR impact AND conserv* OR manage* OR protect*
Sort: On most databases you can change the order of the results. Common options include sort by date, relevance, and title.
Filter or refine: Are your results too many or too few? You can broaden or narrow results by changing the search terms and/or using filters. Filters are usually found to the left of the results.
(note: many platforms serve only one database so they do not have the option to choose other databases)