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Adams State University
Nielsen Library

Sanford HS: Finding Articles

Links for Library Instruction Session

We'll use these links in today's library instruction session:

Brainstorming Keywords

Library Databases need to be searched in a different way than something like Google. Breaking your topic up into key concepts prepares your topic to be searched in a library database. It also makes your research more efficient and decreases the chance that you'll be up at 3am wondering how the heck you found that one perfect article that is now lost.

Use the topic handout to keep track as you go along. (Here's a blank one you can print out.)

Example topic: Love in Othello

Key concepts: 1) Othello and 2) Love

Once you've broken your topic into key concepts, write those key concepts in the top box of two of the columns (see below). Then, brainstorm additional keywords to use in your search. Try to find at least a couple additional keywords related to each key concept. It's good to find synonyms as well as broader and more narrow keywords for concept.

As you can see, for Othello, Shakespear, the author of the work, is a more broad way of talking about that concept. For love, affection is a similar concept; as is friendship; adultery is in the ballpark, and worth a shot.

Once you've brainstormed your keywords, you'll connect them together using the words AND and OR:

  • AND narrows your search by looking for items with all of the keywords.
  • OR broadens your search by looking for items with any of the keywords.

Once you've brainstormed your keywords, you can use them to search one of our databases (see below).

Finding articles in the library database

We've already discussed how to break up your topic into little "chunks of information". Here are some pointers on making those chunks into a search in a database:

Go to the library homepage ( and try your search using the main search box.

There are often multiple ways to talk about a subject. For instance, just as often as people talk about the First Year Experience, they will shorten it to "FYE". So when searching for First Year Experience, you might want to also search "FYE" at the same time. To do this, just put both terms in and separate them with the word OR:

When a search for one or two keywords brings back too many results, you might want to narrow down your search. To do this, add another keyword into the mix using AND. For instance, if your search for First Year Experience turns out to be too broad, then you might want to look at how FYE is related to college success:

As you look at your results, there are a few different options for narrowing things down. These appear on the left-hand side of your search results:

In the Limit To box, you can limit your results to just those available in full text, only scholarly journals, or by year:

You can also limit your results by where they come from (magazines, newspapers, academic journals, etc.) in the Format box:

Once you find an article that looks good, find out a little more about it. Click on the title of the article and you'll see a page with more information on it. Give special attention to the Descriptors (sometimes called Subject Terms) and abstract.

Descriptors and Subject Terms can often be great places to find words that describe your topic in the database that you might not have thought of. You can click on them or copy and paste them into your search. The abstract is a brief summary of the article -- read the abstract to decide if you're interested in reading the whole thing.

In the early stages of your research, it's a good idea to be in "gathering" mode -- don't necessarily set out to read a bunch of entire articles right away, but rather look at a lot of articles and collect all the ones that look interesting so that you can read them later. One good way to do this is to email potentially interesting articles to yourself. Use the Tools box on the right-hand side:

When you are ready to start reading articles for your assignment, there are a few different options for full text access to an article. Most commonly, you'll see PDF and HTML Full Text. Just click the link:

Also in the EBSCO Search: Education database, you'll see databases that are available in full text through ERIC. It's a little harder to see sometimes, but just click the link there, too: