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Political Science

Search Strategies and Techniques


Research can be time-consuming, but knowing how to construct a good search can improve your likelihood of finding good results.  These are some tips to help you maximize your results and make the most out of your time. 


1.  Entering the Search


Entering Searches- Searching GALILEO databases is different than doing a regular Google search.  You must enter keywords rather than questions or long sentences.  Think about exactly what you are researching and write it down in a sentence.  Leaving out unnecessary words (articles, prepositions, etc.), underline all the essential words or phrases that are critical to your search.  List them out along with other terms that might also be used instead. 

  • Lets say your question is "What are the benefits for term-limits for elected representatives?"  You would underline "representatives", "term-limits", and "benefits."  
    • Senate, congress, representatives
    • "Term-limits"
    • Benefits, advantages

Quotation marks- Notice that in the examples above, two-word terms that go together are in quotation marks.  This allows the search to interpret them as one term or idea, and it tries to keep them together in the results.  This helps target your search at exactly what you want so you don't get so many results that are way off the mark.


2.  Filters


Filters can be found in nearly all of our databases.  These allow you to focus your search and take out results that you don't want.  Some of the most frequently used filters (sometimes called limiters), are the full text filter as well as publication datetype of source, and peer-reviewed filters.  If your professor wants you to find peer-reviewed academic articles written in the last seven years, you can enter your publication date range, check the "academic articles" box, and check the peer-reviewed, and full-text only boxes.  *As you search, make it a habit to check to make sure your filters are still set the way you want them.  Occasionally, as you move forward and backward, they may go away.


3.  Boolean Operators


Boolean Operators are a way to connect the words and phrases in your search with your other terms to increase the number of good results or decrease the number of irrelevant results.  There are three Boolean Operators: ANDOR, and NOT.  Always capitalize them.  This is how databases know you are using the terms as a command and not the way you would in an ordinary sentence. This graphic shows examples of how Boolean Operators are used.



Let's use the same example as we used above to do a search in Political Science Database (ProQuest).  "What are the benefits for term-limits for elected representatives?"

We can make use of both operators AND and OR.  



If the results that turn up in the search still aren't good enough, we can add our other terms like causes, "drug abuse" and others we think of along the way.  It may also be better to take terms out, especially if you see that most articles use a particular term.


You may notice that over to the left side of each new row, the database automatically adds the word and for you.  If you are doing a basic search instead of an advanced one or you are searching Google Scholar, which only has one single box to enter the search, you will have to string them together in one line. 


This is what would go in the search bar in a Google Scholar search for the same topic:

senate OR congress OR representatives AND "term limits" AND benefits OR advantages


4. Truncation



Truncation allows you to cut off a word with an asterisk.  By doing this, any words with the same beginnings but different endings will be searched.  So, for example, in the above example, if you typed senat* instead of senate in the search, you could find results for "senators." If you typed legislat*, you could get results for "legislators" as well.  You have to be careful, though, since you would also get "legislation" and "legislative".  If you don't think about the variety of combinations that could come after the asterisk, you could end up with a lot of unwanted results.  Sometimes truncating words helps your search.  Sometimes it makes your search worse.  It's another option to try.