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Getting Started with Research

Link Keywords Effectively (Boolean Searching)

Why Link Keywords with Boolean Searching?

  • Increase or decrease the number of search results to find what you need
Boolean Operator Example Reason to Use
AND women AND military To find items that have both terms and to DECREASE RESULTS.
OR university OR college Use for synonyms and to INCREASE RESULTS.
NOT windows NOT Microsoft To eliminate terms and concepts and to DECREASE RESULTS.


Basic Search Tips

  • Experiment:
    • Try different search terms
    • Go into Advanced Search to search by topic, such as "nuclear power," then create another subject box to add a second term of "history" or other terms that make sense for your interest.
    • Most databases will allow you to check various boxes to manipulate your search terms (dates of publication, types of sources, whether or not there are illustrations, etc.).
  • Identify Alternative Terms:
    • Try popular terms such as "fracking"
    • See if the catalog leads you to a formal term, such as "hydraulic fracturing."
    • If nothing comes up for your term, search a basic database such as Academic Search Complete or look around in Google or even Wikipedia to see if you can find some alternative terms to use.
  • Browse by Subject: 
    • Perform an initial search in CatSearch. From the results page, explore subject categories on the right

Advanced Search Tips

  • Use Truncation:
    • Using an astrick * at the end of a word with search all endings of that word
    • For example Hospital* will search all of the following: Hospital, Hospitals, Hospitalization, Hospitality, etc. 
    • Use when there are multiple possible search terms, starting with the same root
  • Find Like Terms with Subject Terms: 
    • Scroll down on the full record for the book you've found to the subject term fields.
    • You can click on these subject terms to find more on-topic items.
    • In Academic Search Complete and other databases, you can generally click on the subject term from the item’s full record to pull up a list of all of the items in the database that have been labeled with that subject term.
  • Browse the Subject Index:
    • In the MSU catalog, type in your term but before you hit enter, click on the Begins With radio button and then click the Subject button below the dialog box. This will take you into the index of subject headings where your term appears. Explore that index to see if there's a better term to use for your topic. Many databases also include ways to browse the subject index for terms that are relevant to your search. In Academic Search Complete you can access this list by clicking on the Subject Terms link at the top of the page in the blue ribbon and then searching or browsing that list. Other databases will have similar lists of subject terms for you to browse.