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Introduction to Library Resources and Research (HC)

Understand the Process

  • Information research is an iterative process, meaning a cycle rather than a straight line. Assuming you have a research question in mind, you may follow a process like this:
    • Brainstorm search words -->
    • Explore initial search results -->
    • Refine your research question, and add or remove search words based on your initial search -->
    • Conduct a more targeted search -->
    • Evaluate results --> 
    • Check the sources used in the most promising articles or books-->
    • Repeat! -->
      <--  <--  <--

When getting started, I will sometimes look at recent articles in Proquest Research Library to find more vocabulary and ideas.  It is often helpful to look at the group of Scholarly Journals within search results and check the vocabulary used in Subject Headings to describe topics.   

Once you have your research question developed with concepts and related terms, you'll want to use a library catalog, journal database, or research archive to help you find appropriate sources.

Tips for Searching

If you search a catalog or database and receive a large number of results, add a limit or additional keyword in order to retrieve a manageable and relevant number of results to review.  At the same time overly narrow search terms can return too few results.  One way of solving both problems is to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT). They allow you to define concepts and determine their relationships.  They also give you opportunities to limit or expand searches depending on your needs. 

A search for migrant AND  protection will return items that contain both terms:


immigrant  OR  refugee allows you to put related words together with results that contain either one of the terms or both:


human rights NOT trafficking returns items that talk about humans rights issues but do not mention trafficking:

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("human rights") or titles ("journey into europe") :

will search for those words in that order, finding the 2018 book by Ahmed Akbar:

Journey into Europe: Islam, Immigration and Identity


Truncation and Wildcards:

Most catalogs and databases (but not Google) enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.

For example, one could search for politic*  to find politic, politics, political, politicking, and so on.

Wildcard searches are for differences within words: a search for wom?n will return results for woman, women, and womxn.


Nested Searching:

When pairing two or more keywords and connecting them to other concepts, it is important to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.  (immigrant* OR refugee*) AND  ("human right*" OR asylum)

Focus Your Search:

Choose where the database is searching.  It may be set automatically for keyword.  You can make the search more precise by looking instead for subjects when certain ideas are especially important


Putting Your Search Statement Together:

 (immigrant*  OR immigration OR refugee*) AND  ("human right*" OR asylum) AND

 ( "united nations" OR ngo* OR "nongovernment* organization*)  in All Subjects & Indexing Limited to publications 2015-present

In Proquest Research Library this search returns 172 scholarly articles including:  

Surviving trafficking, seeking asylum: waiting, status and the state

Murphy, Carole.  The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy;  Vol. 41, Iss. 5/6,  (2021): 627-642. 


Family Separation under the Trump Administration: Applying an International Criminal Law Framework

Frye, Reilly. Journal of Criminal Law & CriminologyVol. 110, Iss. 2,  (Spring 2020): 349-377.