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Information Research Strategies: Search

Effective search strategies

"Just Google it!" Is this your approach to a search strategy? Many people start with a few words in the ubiquitous Google search box and then find themselves scrolling through page after page of results - that is, if they even go past the first page!

For scholars like you - a grad student doing research for your thesis or dissertation - it is important to go "beyond Google" and instead create a structured approach - a strategy - for searching in library databases.

In this module you will learn how to:

  • Effectively use database searching techniques, including use of Boolean operators.
  • Successfully locate relevant citations and full-text articles in databases such as Academic Search Complete.
  • Use database features such as "My Account" and "Save Search".


Scan the following learning resources for an overview of the process involved in designing and using an effective search statement.

  • How to Search Effectively: Review this tutorial to learn how to combine keywords (search terms) effectively to conduct a database search.
  • Mind Mapping Your Topic: The mind mapping technique (also known as "concept mapping") will help you generate ideas and visualize various aspects of a research topic. It can also help you narrow or focus your topic.



Complete the Academic Search Ultimate Tutorial.

This interactive tutorial will lead you through Academic Search Ultimate on the UA Library's website, creating a search, evaluating results, retrieving documents and using the citation function.

(By the way - you can also find these tutorials on the library website in the Find Materials drop-down menu under Research Databases.)


What are the top two new and most important ideas/tips you learned from the tutorials on effective search strategies?

Go to Padlet to post your answer.

General databases

General databases provide a bigger picture, bringing to light literature from other disciplines with a different perspective on the research topic. Searching interdisciplinary databases also improves the chances you won't miss relevant publications that may not be indexed in more narrowly focused disciplinary databases.

 In this module you will learn how to:

  • Effectively search the following core interdisciplinary databases: JSTOR, Summon, Google Scholar and Web of Science.


You can start getting to know the following general databases by completing these tutorials:

JStor: JStorprovides full-text access to the digital archives of over 1,000 leading academic journals in the humanities, social sciences, and the sciences. All journal issues are available from the first volume to the most recent five years.

Library search: Library search lets you search millions of items from a single interface. Search our physical library holdings, database content, digitized collections, and more.

Google Scholar: Google Scholar is a good starting point for a broad overview of a research area, and it provides links to related content, as well as links to articles that have cited a specific article.

Scopus: Scopus indexes core journal articles and cited references from journals and conference proceedings in all disciplines. It also provides the ability to conduct cited reference searches.


Which of the interdisciplinary databases do you use or think you will use most often? Why?

Go to Padlet to answer the question.

Specialized databases

Using specialized library databases allows you to locate in-depth, discipline-specific research literature, using focused, disciplinary language in your search.  

You may be familiar with some specialized databases or have a favorite interdisciplinary database like Web of Science or JSTOR as your 'go to' database, but there is more!

In this module you will learn how to:

  • Identify specialized library databases in your research area.

  • Effectively search library databases relevant to your discipline.


Identify Specialized Databases

You can find databases for specific research areas by using the Library's Database list.

UA Librarians have created Subject Guides that not only include recommended databases, but also other digital and print sources for specific disciplines.

If you still have questions about identifying the best specialized library databases for your research area, contact the librarian assigned as liaison for your college/department: Find Your Librarian.