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Introduction to the Research Process: General Search Strategies

This guide will help you to complete any research project from start to finish!


The search tool you use will depend on the results you want. 

Basic search engine      

Google, obviously, but there are others, such as:





An online search engine will bring back results from the whole internet, but you are most likely to see these kinds of results in the first several pages: 

Websites of all kinds--commercial, organizational, educational. 

Wikipedia entries

Headline news stories

Advertisements, items for sale

Advanced Googling               
Google News News stories from newspapers, television and radio broadcasts, some magazines.
Google Advanced Search Choose a website type (.gov or .edu, for example) or filetype such as .pdf or ppt. (Powerpoint).
Google Scholar Articles from scholarly journals (be aware that most will not be available full-text).
Library Resources          

Library Catalog                                                   




Journal articles (trade, scholarly, peer-reviewed) 


In short, anything the library has or has access to electronically.  


Newspaper and magazine articles

Articles from scholarly journals


Transcripts from television and radio broadcasts

Note: some databases will provide access to discipline-specific materials, such as medical research, legal cases, etc.

Searching Tips and Tricks

1. Use quotes to search for an exact phrase
This one’s a well-known, simple trick: searching a phrase in quotes will yield only pages with the same words in the same order as what’s in the quotes. It’s one of the most vital search tips, especially useful if you’re trying to find results containing a specific a phrase.

2. Use an asterisk within quotes to specify unknown or variable words
Here’s a lesser known trick: searching a phrase in quotes with an asterisk replacing a word will search all variations of that phrase. It’s helpful if you’re trying to determine a song from its lyrics, but you couldn’t make out the entire phrase (e.g. “imagine all the * living for today”), or if you’re trying to find all forms of an expression (e.g. “* is thicker than water”).

3. Use the minus sign to eliminate results containing certain words
You’ll want to eliminate results with certain words if you’re trying to search for a term that’s generating a lot of results that aren’t of interest to you. Figure out what terms you’re not interested in (e.g. jaguar -car) and re-run the search.

4. Search images using images
Ever come across a photo that looks strangely familiar? Or if you want to know where it came from? If you save the image, and then search it on Google Images (with the camera button), you’ll be able to see similar images on the web.

~ Adapted from "Google Tricks That Will Change the Way You Search."

About Source Types





While pretty much everything is available online, not everything online is a webpage! When you find information online, can you identify the source and source type?

PERIODICALS - "Periodicals" are publications that come out periodically (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly). They include newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. You will find periodical articles by using some online tools, by searching the library catalog, by searching the library databases, and by searching individual newspaper and magazine websites. Scholarly journal articles are rarely available in full-text on the internet; use the library databases and the library catalog to search for scholarly materials.
BOOKS and EBOOKS - Don't forget that books, and book chapters, are indispensable sources of thorough and authoritative information on all topics. Search for books and ebooks by using the library catalog; Proquest Ebook Central is a database of tens of thousands of fully accessible ebooks (which are print books that have been digitized and made searchable). 
PRIMARY SOURCES - The American Library Association describes primary sources as "the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories." Examples of primary sources are: letters, diaries, maps, speeches, photographs, even objects or artifacts. You can find some primary sources online, for example at the National Archives, while some exist only in archives, museums, or other physical collections. 
OTHER - Other potential sources include radio or television broadcasts, online videos, social media posts, and blogs.