1) Wikipedia is not the enemy….yet: Wikipedia is great for very general overviews of topics that will help you narrow your search terms in more academic databases, but you can’t fully rely on what it says because it’s edited by…well, anyone who wants to. It has sources at the bottom of each entry that are helpful, though!
2) Love your college databases: Google is great, but those pay databases kick butt. Of course you wouldn’t pay for them yourself, but fortunately the college has decided to do it for you. All you need is a campus computer, or your ID to log in from your home PC.
3) Google is good: There’s nothing wrong with Google – really – but it’s not the best tool out there. It can’t access all material that databases can, particularly those behind a pay wall.
4) Google Scholar: This is a branch of Google that can help you find scholarly articles without using a database. It’s not ideal, since it has a whole lot of entries, but it can also help evaluate the quality of a particular author or source. Do be wary though; it tends to exaggerate the number of times cited…
5) Learn the LC Lingo: Subject Headings are wonderous – subject headings established by the Library of Congress are even better. With these, you can search in a more specific manner to find relevant sources in library catalogs and a number of databases. Some databases use their own subject headings (non-conformists) but they generally have a guide to suggest which headings you should use.
6) WorldCat: WorldCat is a free database that can track down almost every pusblished article, book, or other form of communication. It doesn’t have access to the full text of these sources, but that’s all right; you can probably find them in pay databases that your friendly college subecribes to.
7) Power to the Libraries: Interlibrary loan is a helpful tool…actually, it’s probably one of the more important things you can take away from a library experience. If you ever happen upon a book that seems perfect but isn’t carried by your local library, have no fear! Simply go online and request the book be sent to your library, wait 6 days, and it’ll be all wrapped up for you to collect at the circulation desk.
8) Boolean Searching: Using little words like And and Or can go a long way – believe me, they’re not the same. By using And you can specify your topic, and Or will blow up the number of results because it forces the search engine to look for both terms.
9) The Little Things in Life: Searching isn’t limited to using And and Or; little marks such as “” and ( ) can go a long way. By putting “” around a phrase, you force the search engine to find exactly that phrase in the title, text, or whatever field in the results. ( ) around a phrase, generally a Boolean phrase such as (teens or adolescents) specifies the search to only use variance, in this case and look for teens and adolescents, in regards to what’s in the ( ). ( ) are comparable to multiple search boxes and are helpful in search engines that don’t include multiple boxes.
10) Field Searching: If you know there’s a particular author of something you want, just go to the search engine or database’s feild searching bar – generally at right of the search box. This will tell the search to limit itself to that field, so that it will narrow the results.