Choosing Search Terms
Choose search terms that you expect to find in written documents about your topic.
If you're looking for secondary sources (including journal articles or books written by scholars), use the language you would expect to find in a scholarly publication.
If you're looking for sources aimed at the public (newspapers, TV news transcripts, blogs), use more colloquial language when searching.
Here are some other ideas to consider:
- Synonyms, technical terms
- Transliterations and alternate spellings
- Alternate or historical place names (e.g. Beijing / Peking)
- Maiden names
- Initials and full names
- British spellings
- Spellings and terms in use during the time period or in the region/country
- Abbreviations vs. full words
Once you have found a few sources on your topic, take note of the language that is being used and incorporate it into your search.
Strategies to Improve Searches
Find information more effectively and efficiently by using these strategies. All of these strategies work in Tripod, and most work in search engines and databases as well.
Use this strategy when researching concepts that are phrases (e.g. ethnic identity or divided government), or when searching for a specific book or article (i.e. where you already know the exact title - e.g. Peasants Into Frenchmen).
- For example, French Revolution will search for French AND revolution
- However, "French Revolution" in quotation marks will search for only this exact phrase. This increases the chance that the books listed will discuss what you're interested in.
- Beyond Tripod: Phrase searching works in Google and most databases (e.g. Proquest, JSTOR, PAIS, Worldwide Political Science Abstracts)
Save time by searching for multiple synonyms at once. This is sometimes called "nested searching" or "set searching."
- For example, (candidate OR appointee) AND (woman OR female) will return results that match at least one term from each set of parentheses. So in this case, you'd get results that contain either (or both) candidate or appointee, and that also contain either (or both) woman or female.
- Try set searching in Tripod by using Tripod Advanced search.
- Beyond Tripod: Many catalogs or databases will have an "advanced search" option, which provides multiple search bars to facilitate nested searching.
Truncation and Wildcards:
Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols. Consider using wildcard searching when there are multiple spellings of a word (e.g. globalization and the British spelling globalisation).
- For example, one could search for politic* to find poltic, politics, political, politicking, and so on. (Google does this automatically.)
- Wildcard searching works similarly: a search for wom?n will return results for women and woman. (Note: this does not work in Google)
Putting it all together:
Try combining these search strategies to improve your search results.
Example: "house of representatives" AND (candidate*) AND (wom?n OR female)