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Philosophy and Religious Studies

Advanced Search Techniques

Once you have begun your research and found some articles, you'll discover that searching the citations in articles you've already found is immensely helpful. This allows you to easily find research that relates directly to your topic.  There are a couple ways to do this. Let's say you've found article X, and it is perfect for your topic.

  • Looking at the bibliography or works cited or references of article X, you skim to see what titles seem to also match your topic.  Picking a title, you then search in our databases/library catalog Primo/Google Scholar for the title

  • Using a citation indexing service like Scopus, Web of Science or Google Scholar, you type in article X's information and find research that cites a specific article or work

Using citation searching also allows your to find out who the "big names"/big articles in your topic are (you'll find some cited in every article) and who the research you're finding relates to, both of which are extremely useful, especially when conduction a literature review. 

In each record you find, you'll discover subject terms.  Subject terms are a type of keyword for each article/book entry.  This is true in the library catalog and in databases (see images below).  These terms can assist you in finding new keywords for your search, as well as giving you an idea of what the article is about before you read the abstract (AKA summary/description).

In the Primo example, subject terms are called "Subjects" in the record. In EBSCOhost databases, they are both "subject terms" and "author supplied keywords".  In the images below you can see partial record views of where subject terms are displayed in the item records.

Library Catalog Primo:

From an EBSCOhost Database Article:

Stuck with your keywords?

Neil Patel made a fantastic list of 5 ways over on Quicksprout of how to develop a ton more keywords fast - keep in mind databases do not work the same way Google does, but these can help you when,, subject searches, looking at the record, and brainstorming fail you. 

  • Ubersuggest
  • Buzzsumo
  • Google's autofill in tools (or any databases)
  • Answer the Public : this website looks a bit odd but type in ONE keyword to start and you can see a visual result of all types of uses of the word - this is typically used for marketing but it's a great tool if you're totally stuck
  • Use the Cloudlet extension Firefox to help you generate a keyword word cloud
  • Visual Thesaurus
  • Do you have any search suggestions? Check those out

What is truncation? Truncation is removing the end of a word and replacing it with a symbol.  So why would you do that?  Because it will search multiple versions of a single word without you having to type them all in.  

To truncate a search term, do a keyword search in a database but add an asterisk (*) to the end of the word after you've cut off part of it.  Confused? See the examples below.

For example:  biolog* will search: biology, biological, biologist, biologics, etc. 

If you searched bio* it would bring back all the results from above, but would also bring back terms like biomass, biosphere, bioluminescence, etc. 

The database (you can also do this in the library catalog or in Google or other search engines) will retrieve results that include every word that begins with the letters you entered.  So if you wanted information on Spain/Spanish would you truncate?  Probably not.  You would have to truncate to SPA which will bring back much more than just Spain or Spanish. 

Spa* - this will of course bring up other results like actual spas, space, Sparta, etc.

The asterisk is usually the symbol used for truncation, but it may be something else.  If the asterisk doesn't work somewhere, do a Google search for the program name, truncation, and symbol.  So if it didn't work in JSTOR you would search:  JSTOR truncation symbol.  (For the record the asterisk is the truncation symbol in JSTOR.)  In Kemp Library's catalog you can use an * or a ? to truncate.

Once you get the hang of it, truncation is a huge time saver.

Boolean Searching is searching using and, or, not to clarify your search.

AND = helps limit a search by only showing results that include both topics 

OR = expands a search by showing results about each individual topic and where the topics meat 

NOT = excludes parts of a search

Google Scholar Search

Databases have more sophisticated search features than Google Scholar, but if you have a one or two word topic Google Scholar can be useful.  

However, if you're having trouble finding something specific, try Google Scholar. For example you want "Game of Thrones and Graffiti" and you don't see it in a database, search the title of the article in Google Scholar (here you'd search "Game of Thrones and Graffiti"). 

If we don't have it and you can't access it on Google Scholar, you can always request it via interlibrary loan.

"If Google Scholar isn’t turning up what you need, try an open Google search with the article title in quotes, and type the added filter “filetype:pdf”. This scours the open web for papers hosted somewhere, by someone, in PDF format. Google Books provides limited preview access to many copyrighted books. Other alternate services include SemanticScholarMicrosoft AcademicDimensions, or GetTheResearch . Here too there are subject-specific portals like EconBiz or the Virtual Health Library, some of which offer multilingual search options." - Paragraph taken from A Wikipedia Librarian. 

Did you know that you can use Google Scholar in addition to Primo to help search Kemp library materials? You just have to add us to your Google Scholar and our results will show up in your searches showing you what you have access to as an ESU community member!

  1. Go to Google Scholar 
  2. Make sure you're logged into your Google Account - you'll see your initials or your icon in the top right hand corner of the screen if you're logged in. 
  3. Click on Settings (either from the top of the Scholar home page, or from the drop-down on the right hand side of the results page).
  4. Choose Library Links.

  5. Type ‘East Stroudsburg University’ into the search box.

  6. Click the boxes next to “ESU” and "Kemp Library"

  7. Click Save.

  8. If you have other institutions you're affilitated with, or ResearchGate, you can add them too!


Getting to Google Scholar Settings:

screenshot of Google Scholar settings menu

The Library Link Screen: Search, Select and Save!

select all boxes for ESU library links in Google Scholar

What your search results will look like: 

Google Scholar search results with ESU library

"Stopwords" or "stop words" are words that search engines, datagases, or any search interface may ignore, skip or may completely interrupt your search.  They may also affect how your results are listed (or in technical terms, "indexed"). These are usually common words such as "the, a, an, but". You can see what a specific search engine or database, etc.'s stopwords are by Googling or otherwise looking up the name of the interface and "stopwords".

Example: "what are Google stop words" or "what are EBSCOhost stop words"

You can see EBSCOhost's list of sample stop words and how they handle them here, or you can see the same information in the attached PDF.

Keyboard shortcuts that work in every browser - these will assist you in becoming a master of time efficiency! There are tons more out there that may be of use to you.

Video Tutorial