POLI SCI xxx: UCDC Research Seminar

How to Search

Power search features for most article databases:
  • Use synonyms -- there are many ways to express a concept (teenager or teenagers or adolescent)
  • Use truncation to get different forms of the word, for example teenage* will retrieve teenagersteenager,teenaged, etc.
  • Use quotation marks when you want an"exact phrase"
  • Restrict by date -- most will let you find only the most current five years if you chose that limit.

Always use Advanced Search:
  • Look for "controlled vocabulary" (also called descriptors or subject headings) that helps you identify articles that are about a topic, not just that have the word in the abstract. For example, if you are looking for the cause of a certain psychological problem, the descriptor "etiology" finds material that looks at causality.
  • Use the special "limits" or "fields" that the database offers. They really do help you make a more focused and powerful search.  Some typical limits include:
    • Publication type -- do you want articles? reviews? book chapters?
Once you get a single good article, use its subject headings or descriptors to find others like it!

Proxy and VPN set up

To use library databases from DC you have to set up your campus proxy server or VPN. Once you do so, you'll be able to get articles from the databases in pdf form after logging with your campus ID.

Click your campus name below for set-up instructions:

Analyze your topic

Write down your topic.  Identify and mark the most important keywords (the ones you would definitely want to include in a search).

Example:  
What is the role of the passions in Romeo and Juliet?

For each keyword, see if you can think of synonyms or closely related concepts that you might also want to search.

Example:
passions or love or eros
Romeo and Juliet or Shakespeare

Build and refine your search

Library catalogs and article databases offer several ways to narrow or broaden, or otherwise control your search.  Below are common methods; if they don't work, look for a "Help" link!

Most default to a quick keyword search (somewhat like Google) that assumes you want items containing all the words you type.

Example:
passions shakespeare

Most let you truncate a word with a wildcard symbol (usually * ) to get plurals and other variant forms.

Example: 
passion*
gets passion, passions, passionate

Most offer an Advanced Search with more options, such as searching on an author's name, or words in a title.

REFINING YOUR SEARCH
If your search retrieves too many items, use more specific terms, or put in additional keywords.

Example: 
eros shakespeare

gets fewer items than love shakespeare

Example: 
love poetry shakespeare

gets fewer items than love shakespeare

If your search gets too few items, use more general terms or remove some keywords.

You can also combine terms with OR to get more items.

Example: 
love OR eros
gets items containing either term.

FINDING RELATED ITEMS
In library catalogs and most article databases, click on the title of an interesting item and look in the detailed display for links (blue underlined text).  These may include the author's name, "Subjects" or "Subject headings".  Clicking on one of these links will do a search for items tagged the same way.

MANAGING RESULTS
Many catalogs and databases allow you to save items to a list/folder/etc. and e-mail, print or download the citation.  Some will allow you to output citations in a particular citation style (ex:  MLA or Chicago).

Ask a Librarian 24/7 Chat

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You can type your question directly into this chat window to chat with a librarian. Your question may be answered by a reference librarian from Berkeley, from another UC campus, or another academic library elsewhere in the US.  We share information about our libraries to make sure you get good answers.

If the librarian can't answer you well enough, your question will be referred to a Berkeley librarian for follow-up.

Have fun chatting!

Last Update: January 31, 2014 13:04