Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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."