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Communication (UNH Durham)

Approaches to Searching and Finding Articles

Use 2 or 3 significant words or terms from your research topic

Develop synonyms and alternative terms

  • Example: teens or youth or adolescents

 Try a broader concept if a specific term doesn't retrieve enough results

  •  instead of Girls Inc, try programs for adolescent girls

Try a more specific aspect or element if you get too many results with a very broad concept

  • instead of sports, search a specific sport or category such as baseball or water sports

Use the connector "AND" to retrieve records with all the keywords you list to focus and narrow your results

  • friendship AND health

Use the connector "OR" indicate that any one of the terms listed needs to be in the results shown; this usually increases the number of relevant results

  • audience OR attendees

Use quotation marks to indicate a phrase

  • "cognitive behavior therapy"

Use an asterisk * to pick up words with the same stem but different endings

  • rhetoric* returns rhetoric, rhetorical, rhetorically, rhetorician

Look for new words or terms to search when reviewing your results or reading the full-text article.

Some specialized databases allow you to limit your search in other useful ways age, population group, research methodology, language, etc.

Limiter options vary by database:

  • check the advanced search screen
  • view the limiters to the left or right on the search results page

Make connections through ideas and concepts rather than specific words

Look at the reference list at the end of a relevant scholarly article you found. This may lead you to earlier articles related to your topic. Search the UNH Library catalog by the name of the journal to see if we have the article online or in print.

Check "Times CIted" links, if available, in databases such as Communication & Mass Media Complete to identify some newer articles citing the article in the database record. This may lead to related relevant articles.

Searching by the subjects assigned to articles helps

  • identify articles in which the subject is a main focus and not just not just a passing reference
  • pull together results on same concept even if author uses different terms in title or abstract
    • the subject "capital punishment" will retrieve articles using the term "death penalty" as well as those using "capital punishment"
  • when a keyword may have multiple meanings or a more general meaning
    • the subject "flow (conscious state)" will get more relevant results than just searching the keyword "flow"

Look at the subject terms in records for articles that fit your topic closely and search those subjects for more articles

Use the thesaurus available in some databases to see if your keywords are subjects or if alternative terms are used

  • Communication & Mass Media Complete uses "Conversation" as a subject but not "Talking"

What else have the author(s) published on this topic? Search their names in the relevant database or look online for their CV (curriculum vitae) or list of publications.

Records in many library databases include fields containing specific pieces of information describing the article, book, chapter, etc. Common fields include:

  • author
  • title (often article or chapter)
  • source (publication such as journal or book title)
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • publication date/year
  • publication type (article, book, dissertation, etc.)
  • subject (sometimes called descriptor)

Using one or more of fields in your search will produce more precise results than keyword searching will. For example, when looking for books by Sigmund Freud rather than books about him, it's more efficient to use the author field.

Look for drop down boxes or menus to select the fields you want to search (Example)