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Comprehensive Seminar: SWK 8903

Strategies and tips for locating 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.
  • It's important to keep in mind that most words you use as search terms will retrieve some results, as long as they're spelled correctly.  However, they are not always the most relevant or helpful results.  When researching, you are typically looking for articles, books, book chapters, and so on that are focused on the topic you are interested in--not items that may make mention of your topic. 
  • The purpose of identifying controlled vocabulary is to enable you to identify the subject of the item, not just random keywords that appear in titles and summaries. When you select search terms that are used to describe the item instead, you will most generally have a list of results where your search term is the main focus for the item.  This will lead to better research and information for you to use in your paper, and hopefully, a better paper!

The video to the left is a guide for searching in the Library of Congress Authorities.  Spending time searching for good search terms to use will ultimately save you time while using library databases.  If you have questions or need additional guidance, please contact Jeanette!