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Marketing: Search & Evaluate

Search Effectively: Basic Search Tips

Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. So you'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - the KEYWORDS.

Example Topic: What is the effect of social media on the mental health of adolescents?

The specifics of your topic will matter when selecting sources, but for searching you only need the most essential components.

Keywords: social media, mental health, adolescents

What is the effect of social media on the mental health of adolescents?

Most words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!


Keyword: social media    Synonyms: facebook, twitter, blogging, posting


Keep an Eye Out

Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.

Most library databases have search tools built in to refine your results. Try some of these:

  • Full Text: Make sure all of the results are available to read in full.
  • Scholarly/Peer Reviewed: Limit your search to scholarly journal articles.
  • Publication Date Range: Limit your search to sources published between specific years.

Look on the left and right of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools - and more!

Advanced Search Tips

Use the operator AND to find only sources that mention both keywords.

This search will bring back fewer results (the overlapped green area) than searching either keyword on its own.

social media AND mental health

Venn diagram social media OR facebook

Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords.

This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results (the entire blue area) than by searching for just one keyword.

social media OR facebook

Use quotations "social media" or facebook AND "mental health" AND adolescents

Use the “QUOTES” strategy to search for several words in a phrase.This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.

"social media" or facebook AND "mental health" AND adolescents ...

Evaluate What You Find

Just because it's in writing doesn't mean it's good. Check it against the CRAAP Test:

  • Currency: When was it posted or last updated?
  • Relevance: Is it useful for your needs? Better than another source?
  • Authority: Who wrote it? Are they an expert?
  • Accuracy: Is it reliable? True? Correct? Does it cite evidence?
  • Purpose: Why does this source exist-- to inform, teach, sell, persuade...?

Beware of Fake News! See Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers


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