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NSP: Detecting the Truth

Tips and hints for finding resources for your research project.

What is a search strategy?

Developing a strong search strategy can save you time when it is time to search for resources.  Rather than doing general searching using Google, we recommend that you search using the library databases.  Searching Google is much different than searching library databases.

One facet of database searching that can be difficult to get used to is subject heading or keyword searches.  Rather than typing a question in and expecting instant results, users need to focus on identifying and using controlled language searches.

Identifying controlled language for subject headings and keywords is beneficial for the savvy researcher.  Controlled language is typically assigned by the Library of Congress and is then used universally (or at least in English) by vendors and publishers when identifying main points and ideas for their books, journals and other publications.

Once the controlled language for your topic is identified, database searching is usually much easier. 

Language used on websites by various entities can often be arbitrary and inconsistent.

Subject headings

As you begin to develop your search terms including subject headings and keywords, you'll want to brainstorm.  This could be fairly easy to do with this topic.  Here are a few things to consider to supplement your search.

  • Use "serials murderers" not serial killers to narrow down articles as a subject heading
  • There are many variations that can help you narrow down even further
    • women serial murderers
    • serial murders-history
    • serial murderers' spouses
  • As you begin searching, look at the subject headings, read abstracts, you can get some great ideas for other terms and words to use to enhance your search and clarity your results
  • Here are a few keywords I discovered while searching that may help:
    • criminal investigation or investigation
    • murder victims
    • police
    • serial murder investigation
    • law enforcement
    • murder investigation
    • homicide investigation
    • philosophy
    • motivation
    • psychology
    • profiling

A note about searching for specific names.

Some names you may or may not find listed as subjects.  Be sure to enclose a person's name in quotation marks.  

For example: "Dennis Rader".  

To get the best results you'll want to search: "Dennis Rader" OR "Rader, Dennis"

You will have unique results for both searches, so including both in your search will give you a more comprehensive list of results.

If your serial murderer has been given a nickname, also search for that term.  i.e., "BTK" or "Bind, torture, kill"