Make sense of your research process: Search Logs
Research is a larger process of inquiry, and searching is how you find partial answers. Keeping some record of your searches can make your research process more effective.
Keeping track of your searches:
- Helps you make sense of your research process
- Saves time by avoiding duplicated effort
Key elements of a search log:
- Write down your question(s) and interest(s)
- Where you searched (e.g. JSTOR, Tripod) and when
- What you did (which keywords? advanced search?)
- How well did it go? What did you gain? What's next?
Strategies to Improve Searches
Use this strategy when researching concepts that are phrases (e.g. Manifest Destiny or French Revolution).
- 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. JSTOR, America, History and Life, Proquest)
Save time by searching for multiple synonyms at once. This is sometimes called "nested searching" or "set searching."
- For example, (physician OR doctor) 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) physician or doctor, 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: "world war, 1914-1918" AND (physician* OR doctor*) AND (wom?n OR female)