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Research Tips

Boolean Searching

Databases that ask you to specify the relationship between your terms are performing Boolean searches (sometimes called Logical Search). Although some resources do not require you to input Boolean operators, many - including Google - can run a Boolean search. The three basic operators are AND, OR and NOT, and you can employ them by simply typing them in all caps into your search strings.

AND narrows your list of results by requiring more than one keyword to appear in a document. If you are interested in education of women in Africa, you wouldn't only use "women" or "Africa". You would type women AND Africa, and for that matter, AND education. In many databases typing women Africa education would achieve the same effect; they assume the AND.

OR expands your results by looking for either of two or more terms, like women OR female. Synonyms are a common use of this operator.

NOT is used to clarify terms that you are not interested in. You would think not including them would be good enough, but say you are looking for information about Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. In some databases you might start getting a lot of results related to the film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, so you would use NOT film.

Advanced Searching

AND, OR and NOT are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways we can connect our keywords together or modify the search we are running.

Quotation Marks are used to search for an exact phrase. For example, in looking for information on the Pacific Ocean, use quotation marks around "Pacific Ocean". Without quotation marks, Pacific and Ocean would be searched as individual terms, and you might end up with results about Billy Ocean or the Union Pacific Railroad.

Truncation and Wildcards allow you to search for variations of a word. Truncation tells the system to find all endings of a base word. For example, democra* will search for democracy, democrat, democratic, etc. Wildcards can be inserted in the middle of a word to find variations of a single letter. You could type wom?n, to get results for the singular and plural forms: woman and women. Different databases use different symbols but the most common are asterisks *(especially truncation), question marks ? (wildcard), and exclamation marks !.

Parentheses are used to organize your query by nesting terms when more than one Boolean operator is used. For example, (Europe OR America) AND "agricultural maps" would find agricultural maps that pertain to either America or Europe. In an Advanced Search interface the default is often multiple rows, where each row is understood as a set of parentheses, connected with AND.

Most databases have a HELP link that will lead to more information about their particular search mechanics and features.

Materials Beyond Oxy

If you are looking for an item in OASys (Oxy's library catalog) or Oxy WorldCat and:
  • Oxy doesn't have it
  • Oxy has it, but it's checked out
  • It's a physical item (book, cd, dvd, score, etc..) and not a periodical
You can order materials unavailable at Oxy through Camino or LINK+, which typically takes 2-5 days. Try searching for the item in Oxy WorldCat, which will not only search for the item at Oxy, but also our partner libraries, and libraries worldwide. When your item arrives, you will receive an email to come pick it up.
If you are looking for:
  • A book that is not available via Camino or LINK+
  • An article that is not available through Oxy databases or in print
You can use Illiad, the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service. Articles can arrive within 24 hours or up to a few weeks. Books can take from 1 to 8+ weeks depending on availability.
You can also search the catalogs of nearby public and university libraries directly to see if they own the item.

Peer Reviewed Articles

Qualities of Both Scholarly Journals and Peer Reviewed Journals:

  1. Written by experts in the field for other experts in the field
  2. Reports findings of original research
  3. Uses academic methods in collecting and analyzing data
  4. Written with the vocabulary that is specific to the academic discipline
  5. Use rigorous citation methods in the form of footnotes, works cited, references, and/or bibliographies

The Difference Between Peer Reviewed and Scholarly Journals:

You can assume that all peer reviewed journals are scholarly; however, not all scholarly journals are peer reviewed. Peer reviewed journals publish articles that go through a special process. This process requires articles to go through an expert panel review process. It is valuable because it helps ensure that articles present solid research and analysis. Keep in mind that even peer-reviewed journals include editorial content and book reviews, which are not the same as peer-reviewed original research.

What exactly is the peer-review process? Watch the video below.