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ENGL Composition - Gleed (Virtual): Searching

Identifying Keywords & Related Terms Example

There is a tendency for people to simply type their questions into a database and hope for the best. While this might work OK for Google, it doesn't work so great for the databases, and your google searches will improve by thinking more strategically about your search. By identifying the key concepts and what other words or phrases describe that concept you will get more meaningful results. Here is an example of how you can break down a question into concepts and their related phrases.

How often does eyewitness testimony lead to wrongful convictions? Keywords: eyewitness testimony, wrongful convictions, statistics

This table explains how a single phrase or word can have multiple other words or phrases to describe the same concept.
Original Phrase Related words or ideas
eyewitness testimony eyewitness identification/misidentification, false testimony, police lineup, eyewitness errors, lineup identification, eyewitness evidence, eyewitness memory
wrongful conviction innocence, false imprisonment, exoneration, false arrest, wrongful incarceration, criminal justice errors
how often statistics, data, history, frequency, extent

Using Quotes to Narrow your Search

One thing students struggle with is finding too much irrelevant information in the databases. This is because of one very specific problem: computers are literal. They will search for your words wherever they can, which means you might get a result that uses your words in a different context.

One way you can help them understand you is to use quotation marks in your search to ensure the database or search engine looks for those words together as a phrase. Be on the lookout for words that provide a specific meaning the word it comes before to after.

This table provides examples of words with multiple contexts and how you can use that information to change your search.
Words with Multiple Contexts Words that Describe Previous Word Type in search box, In quotes
school high, elementary, charter "charter school"
games Olympic, video, board "video games"
tiger cat, Woods, king, Detroit "Tiger Woods"

How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT)

AND - Finds all the words
OR - Finds either of the words
NOT - Excludes a word from search

How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Modifiers "", *, ( )

"  " - Searches as an exact phrase
- Truncates a term to search for varied endings
( ) - Tells the database to do this part first