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EH202 (T. Sasser): Information-seeking

This Library Guide offers tips and suggestions for Ms. Tanya Sasser's EH202 class.

Page Overview

This page addresses assignment-centric search strategies for electronic database (EBSCOhost) and the internet (Google).  The strategies are specific applications of general techniques.  They are transferable; with minor modifications the processes may be used for other topics and with other databases.

Performing General Database Searches

Because of their user-friendly interface, EBSCOhost databases probably are the best place to begin.  Use Academic Search Premier (Advanced Search -- three search boxes stacked).  If search results are insufficient, expand your search by using Select all from the Choose Databases hyperlink  on the ASP interface.

The search results you get should mostly come from non-scholarly sources: newspapers and general-interest magazines (not literature-centric). You can filter by content type by using the left pane of the initial search screen.  To locate these materials, you will be using search terms in various combinations.

  • author's name (this should be in the top box of every search)
  • title of story (omitting leading articles)
  • biography (title of the story would not be part of this search)
  • commentary
  • interviews
  • reviews

Basically, the approach taken in these searches is to begin with the most precise, tightly-focused search available and then, if search results are inadequate, to fall back gradually to more general searches until satisfactory results are obtained.  Language -- using the right, "best" words whose meanings closely reflect what you are looking for -- is paramount.

Search Strategies

top box = author's name

middle box = title of story

  • if a null set (zero results) is returned, change Field box to All Text and repeat search
    • if you still get a null set, remove story title from the search and in the middle box try interviews and then reviews
      • the Boolean AND means you should search interviews and reviews separately; searching both together might sabotage your results and return a null set

NOTE: Short stories usually are published in books as part of a collection.  If the story title produces a null set, re-do the search using the name of the collection.  You will have to see how applicable the comments regarding the collection are to your particular story, but this sort of general-to-specific reasoning is a legitimate research technique.



Performing General Online Searches

Online (web-based) searches like Google Basic usually harvest results from sources not considered "published" in the traditional sense: blogs, crowdsourced reader's advisories like GoodReads, author webpages, fan club webpages.  The content is more "impressionistic" based on reader response than scholarly.

Your search terms will be the same as those used for the general database searches, tried in the same combinations.  Unlike with databases, in Google multi-word search terms like the author name or story title should be enclosed in quotation marks in order to create a more precise search.  Also, there is an invisible but still functioning Boolean AND that will separate terms in the search box, which means that every term you put in the box will be searched.  Another reason to search interviews and reviews separately.

Search Strategies

The search strategies and protocols basically are the same as for the general database searches; the principal difference lies in the type of information sources being searched.  To perform a Google search in a more database-like interface, use Google Advanced Search.

Type the important words: tricolor rat terrier
Put exact words in quotes: "rat terrier"
Type OR between all the words you want: miniature OR standard
Put a minus sign just before words you don't want: -rodent, -"Jack Russell"