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Searching in the Humanities: Get Started

Overview

  • The key to being a savvy online searcher is to use common search techniques that you can apply to almost any database, including article databases, online catalogs and even commercial search engines.
  • However, keep searching library databases is a bit different from searching Google.
  • The techniques described in this section will enable you to quickly retrieve relevant information from the thousands of records in a database.
  • When you search a database and do not get the results you expect, contact your librarian. Library staff are happy to help you find what you need.

Whenever you are searching for resources ask yourself:

  • What am I looking for?
    • Background information, general overview, very specific or specialized information/analysis
  • Where should I look for this information?
    • Search engine looking at open web, library catalog, general database, specialized database
      • Should I use the Simple/Basic search or the Advanced search option?
  • How am I searching?
    • Natural language search using key words, or subject term search,or Boolean search (AND, OR, NOT)

Suggestion: If you are using a database heavily, use advanced search, and look in help for suggestions on how to construct your search

Gather Background Information

As you get started, you can get ideas from class discussions or readings.

If it is a topic you are just getting started with, look for background Information in reference resources.

Reference resources allow you to:

  • Gain familiarity with the topic
  • Identify more specific aspects of the topic on which to focus
  • Provide context and identify differing perspectives
  • Identify experts related to the topic