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Search Strategies: Search Strategies

Search tips for using DiscoverE, Google, WorldCat, and Databases

Search Overview

Searching at this stage of the digital evolution is not yet a seamless process. Not everything is digitized. Whatever is digitized is not necessarily in a standard format or findable by any one search interface. The powerpoint embedded to the right shows roughly the relationship in coverage among the major search gateways commonly used at Emory:   DiscoverE, Databases@Emory, WorldCat, and the Googles (Google Web, Google Book, Google Scholar). Click the "full" screen icon in the lower right of the box to view the powerpoint full screen. 

Searching is one step in most disciplinary research practices.  It usually entails concurrent processes like evaluating and capturing your results.  This page centers on locating resources, sometimes called "information literacy" or "information competency."  To check the state of your "information literacy," try this quiz.  

Search tips:

  • Clarify your topic or thesis. One reason for searching is to gain clarity on a research topic.  And the more clarity you gain, the easier it is to search.  It is an ongoing iterative process.  Use a written draft of your topic as a touchstone to which you can return often to clarify and prioritize what you're searching for. Run it by your instructor or others periodically for feedback.  For quick summaries of topics, try Reference Works.
  • Keep a Search Journal.  It is easy to lose track of what searches worked or didn't work.  There are at least a couple methods for tracking your search history.
  • Books or Articles?  Unlike the sciences, the largest proportion of scholarly work in the Humanities is published in monographs (books by a single author) rather than in journal articles. Social Sciences falls somewhere in between. Use DiscoverE (primary tab) or WorldCat to find books; use DiscoverE (articles tab) or Google Scholar to find articles.  Google Books often publishes sections of works still in copyright, esp. introductory matter, that can often help determine if the work is worth pursuing in the libraries.
  • Find keywords in the standard vocabulary for a topic or familiarize yourself with the topic's academic context by using reference works (including Wikipedia), a discipline-specific database, or LC subject headings
    • Extract by your own analysis the keywords characteristic of a particular text or use a text mining tool like Reference Finder for small texts. See the Text Analysis guide for a comprehensive review of more powerful tools.
  • Install the Firefox extension LibX to search WorldCat, Google web or Google Scholar by simply highlighting and right-clicking on the title, author, isbn or keyword in any web page. Useful to find books and articles on the fly, as well as tables of contents, synopses and reviews in Google from a DiscoverE record. 
    • Also note that at the bottom of search results in DiscoverE, you'll see links to search Google Scholar or WorldCat or GIL (Georgia Interconnected Libraries) with your search terms already embedded.
  • Follow citation links or "related record" links if available in a search result from a database.  See the Citation Tracking guide.
  • Target reviews as well as the original articles and monographs, esp. in article databases that give you the option to select reviews as a search option.
  • Cross disciplinary boundaries, e.g., for a humanities-related topic, also search social science, business and science-centered databases as categorized in the subject indexes of Databases@Emory
  • Go off the grid and look up works in DiscoverE that are available only in print and/or indexed only in print.  
    • Archives and primary sources: If you need to find primary sources or rare or unique or ephemeral or "gray" material, see this guide.
  • Consult online directories which offer organized categories of resources in specific fields of study. They may sometimes be more efficient than using search engines.  Look for a discipline-specific directory in Libguides or Google or try the comprehensive directories of scholarly resources organized by general subject areas like Academic Info.
  • Unlock the "deep" structure of Database search interfaces. Checking for the standard features like controlled vocabulary, boolean operators, limiters and wildcard characters should help you familiarize yourself with a new database quickly.
  • Evaluate your results: For guidance, see UC Berkeley's Critical Evaluation of Resources, Cornell's Critically Analyzing Information Sources, Cornell's Five Criteria for Evaluating Web Pages or CSU Chico's CRAAP test.
  • Capture your results: Use bibliographic software like Zotero or Endnote to capture print or online book and journal citations or full-text articles and to automatically generate footnotes and reference lists.  You can use Zotero also to annotate your readings or share your bibliographies online with others.
  • If you need help with a specific source or search strategy, don't hesitate to contact the Reference Desk or the relevant subject liaison.
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