Most of the pages tabbed in the left-hand column explain how to search for a specific format (book, score, recording, etc.). The information on this page explains basic concepts needed to get the best results when searching any of those formats.
Searching a library catalog or database works the same way as other online searches that you probably already use. Results can be even better when you understand basic searching techniques.
To identify and explore searching techniques for finding books and articles, we’ll use the sample research paper topic: Why does adult musical creativity often reduce the impact of childhood trauma?
Keywords are the most important terms that best describe your topic.
Example: Music, creativity, childhood, trauma
Suggestions: (a) Limit the combination of keywords. At first, use only two or three keywords in a search; (b) Consider possible synonyms for your keywords. For example, you could replace “childhood” with “adolescent,” or “youth” or “teenager.”
Keywords can be combined to make a longer search statement in order to refine your research and get better results. Boolean operators, quotation marks and truncation are tools that will help clarify your search statement.
One way to use keywords is by connecting them with AND, OR, and NOT. (In library jargon, these three connectors are called Boolean Operators.)
In addition to Boolean Operators, another way to connect keywords is by enclosing two or more of them within quotation marks, turning them into an exact phrase like “childhood trauma,” or “musical creativity.”
Use an asterisk (*) at the end of a root word that may have various endings.
Example: Song* will return articles that use any of the following terms: song; songs; songwriter; songwriting.