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HIST 333: History and Fiction (HC)

History 333: History and Fiction (Saler) Spring 2016

Search Tips

While popular search engines have complex algorithms and search through giant corposus of fulltext, most search tools in libraries require some finessing to find the precise results

Phrase searching:

Put search terms in quotation marks "yellow fever" to find only those works that have the exact phrase.

Nested Searching:

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

For example, (disease OR pestilence OR malad? ) AND Philadelphia will return results for Philadelphia and any one (or both) of the parenthetical terms. 

(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.

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

Wildcard searching works similarly: a search for t??th will return results for teeth, tooth, tenth, and so on.

In searching historic documents, this is a good way to account for spelling variations through time.

Tips for Searching

The large number of citations in many catalogs and databases requires one to limit otherwise broad or general searches in order to retrieve a manageable and pertinent number of results.  Conversely, 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 one to limit or expand searches depending on his or her needs.

For example, a search for Resnais AND Holocaust will return items that contain both "Resnais" and "Holocaust":


Resnais OR Holocaust returns items that contain either "Resnais" or "Holocaust" or both:

Resnais NOT Holocaust returns items that contain "Resnais" but not "Holocaust":