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POLS 213: Oil, Politics, Economy, and Society (HC): Search Tips

Political Science 213: Oil, Politics, Economy, and Society (Harrold) Spring 2015

Tips for Searching Part 1

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), which allow you to limit or expand searches depending on your needs.

For example, a search for oil  AND politics will return items that contain both concepts":


petroleum OR oil returns items that contain either one of the terms or both:

central america NOT costa rica returns items that talk about the region but do not mention the country Costa Rica:

Phrase searching:

An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("oil industry") or titles:

For example, "oil causes war"

will search for those words in that order, finding the 2013 book:   Petro-aggression: when oil causes war  by Jeff Colgan


Truncation and Wildcards:

Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.

For example, one could search for politic*  to find poltic, 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 womyn.


Nested Searching:

When pairing two or more keywords with another keyword, it is important to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.

For example, (petroleum OR oil)  (politic* OR war OR violen*) = 256 results   

The search returns results for the union of the two subject areas.

Tips for Searching Part 2

Subject Headings allow you to find relevant material grouped together including titles that do not use the keywords you may have been searching.


Finding subject headings

       Look at a book record in Tripod, check the subjects assigned to it, and choose whatever ones are relevant for your research.

Example:  Resource curse or blessing?: Africa's management of its extractive industries : hearing before the Subcommittee on African Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate.


                         mineral industries  africa  management

                         petroleum industry and trade  africa  management

                         transparency in government  africa

                         corruption  africa  prevention

                         economic assistance american  africa

                         resource curse  africa

            Subject search   petroleum industry and trade  africa   =  28 results


Refining subject searches

                        You can combine different concepts into a single subject search for precision.  The results are more focused than a keyword search.

                         But all the words have to be terminology used in library subject cataloging.

                         To ensure this, you can use subject headings you have already found.  Another option is to browse in the subject headings for more choices.                   

                          Combination subject search:

                                 (transparency OR corruption)  (petroleum OR oil)  =  69 results    [sorted by newest titles first]