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Communication Studies: Search Tips

Narrowing Your Search

If you're getting hundreds (or thousands!) of results, try some of the strategies below to      

focus your results:

hand holding camera lens

    • Do a subject search instead of a keyword search, or limit your keyword search to the abstract or title.


      • If you find a pertinent article, look at its subject headings and use them in your search


    • Put phrases or names in quotation marks


    • Add terms to your search using the Boolean "AND" operator


    • Use the Boolean "NOT" operator, if appropriate, to eliminate unrelated results
      • For example, search for "Madonna NOT church" to eliminate results about the church when you're looking for articles about the singer. (Be careful-- you'll miss articles that deal with the church's reaction to the singer or vice versa.)

Expanding Your Search

What can you do if you can't find enough (or any) articles on your topic?  Here are some tips to FIND MORE RESULTS:

    • First, check your spelling. Most databases won't fix typos.


    • Next, think of synonyms or related words and connect them with the Boolean OR term.


      • For example, if you're looking for information on ethics, try searching for: ethics OR morals OR principles


    • Use truncation to find plural forms and variants of a word:
    • Search for broader, less-specific terms and then decide if the arguments for the broader terms apply to your specific topic
      • For example, search for "reality television" instead of "Jersey Shore".