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FYE 101 - Online: Week 8

This guide is designed specifically for presenting information that is relevant to only the online sections of FYE 101.

Locating Articles

Think back to the keywords and terms you used on the Define tab. Keywords are words that can appear anywhere in an article including the title or the article text. You'll use keywords to search all of the library databases.   

Here are some tips for searching:

  • Identify a few keywords and search using only those words: computers, communication and 1990s.
  • Avoid slang. Searching kids will not get as many results as children, nor will searching the Net instead of Internet. 
  • Avoid natural language. Asking a database "How were computers used to communicate in the 1990s?" won't get you very good results.
  • Make sure terms are spelled correctly. Databases don't always correct spelling the way Google does. 
  • Use synonyms or terms that might mean the same thing. If you want to find articles about electronic mail, you should also search for the term email. 
  • Check your numbers: Try searching both nineteen nineties and 1990s to see how your results change. 
  • Use quotation marks to tell the computer to find certain words together as a phrase, such as "personal computers" or "electronic mail".
  • Do your background research: If you aren't sure about what keywords to use, consider reading an encyclopedia article on your topic to get ideas for other keywords.
  • Use Boolean Operators. These make your searches more successful. See the explanation below. 
  • Get help: If your searches aren't working, ask the library staff or your instructor for suggestions on keywords to use. 

EXAMPLE: This is not a good search for EBSCOhost because it poses a question rather than using keywords.


bad search

This is a much better search that focuses on keywords and makes use of Boolean Operators.


better search

Remember that most databases, like EBSCOhost, use a tool called Boolean Operators to search. The Boolean Operators are used to connect words together and tell the database to return results that contain some or all of those words. Here’s how the operators work:

  • AND tells the database to return only articles that contain all of your terms, such as computers AND communication AND 1990s. AND will narrow your search, or return fewer results.
  • OR tells the database to return articles that contain either of your terms, such as desktops OR "personal computers". OR will broaden your search, or return more results. OR is excellent for synonym or variations of a word (communicate OR communicator OR communication). 
  • NOT tells the database to exclude articles that contain a certain term 1990s AND computers NOT email. That would get you results that focused on ways computers were used in the 1990s other than for email. NOT will narrow your search, or return fewer results.

Why do Boolean Operators matter? Well, many databases assume that if you enter a bunch of words in a row, then you want articles that contain all of those words together. So the search ninteeen nineties computers communication would return only articles that have those four exact words right next to one another – probably not very many articles. This is called phrase searching.

One other tip about Boolean Operators? You MUST capitalize them – every letter. Or they won’t work!

Library databases frequently rely on Boolean Operators to connect search terms and find the best articles. This video shows you what Boolean Operators are. From Lexy Spry & Emily Wixson, Chemistry Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Databases for FYE 101