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SSC 251 - Research Methods for Social Sciences: Finding Scholarly Sources

WISE - Books, Articles, and more

WorldCat Discovery search box example

Scholarly Databases for ALL


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You use these everyday when searching Google, but it's different when you are doing academic research.  Common words like "what" and "the" are ignored; others may give you irrelevant results.  You want to use the most precise, important terms based on your needs (though these can be either specific or broad).  Here are some other tips:

  • List of terms.  Write down a list of useful terms - you may need to come back to them later on.
  • Synonyms.  You want to try as many options as you can, not just the first you think of.
  • Fancy words.  Use terminology from the field instead of plain terms ("myocardial infarction" instead of "heart attack")
  • Find more!  Both familiarize yourself with the basics of your topic and related concepts AND add to your list of keywords by reading quick reference sources - SAGE Knowledge, Wikipedia (careful with the latter...)

Boolean search:

This is a common search language in many databases and even basic search engines like Google. It allows you to search beyond single words and refine your search terms.

  • AND allows you to combine two terms
    • "Social media" AND "celebrities"
  • OR will tell the database that either term is acceptable
    • "social media" OR facebook OR twitter
  • NOT will exclude words from your search and narrow your search
    • "social media" NOT "digital media"
  • " " are used for terms that are more than one word
    • "social media"
  • * is for truncation, it's good for words with multiple endings
    • celebrit* (would look for terms that start with celebrit-, things like celebrity, celebrities
  • ? and # can be used for wild card, or if you looking for words with multiple spellings
    • colo?r, for color, colour
    • wom!n, for woman, women
  • You can combine all these things to make much longer searches
    • ("social media" OR facebook OR twitter) AND celebrit*

Every database and site might use a slightly varied approach to these advanced searching techniques, check with the one your are using.

Here is EBSCOhost's guide (Communication and Mass Media)