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BIOLOGY 100: Cells, Genes, and Molecules

This guide will help you find popular, reputable news sources for this class.

Searching like a pro - Pro tip #1

In Google you can type in, "What's the weather like in New York City this weekend?" and receive the answer. In library databases, you need to boil down your inquiry to the nouns and noun phrases that capture your concepts, like New York City AND weekend AND weather 

For example, if your topic is, what are the effects of microplastic pollution on sea life, you would not type in that ENTIRE question into a library database. Really, you want to type in only the 'meat' of your sandwich:  ​microplastics AND pollution AND sea life. If that search does not return much, then consider eliminating one of your terms. For example, try searching for microplastics AND pollution AND sea or for just microplastics AND polution.

Once you have the meat, you can then start to put together a search strategy as shown below. Consider using synonyms when searching. Make sure you get ALL the relevant possibilities for your research. The following pro tips will help you do this.

Using 'AND, OR, NOT'

These three words (also known as 'Boolean operators') -- AND, OR, NOT -- perform a special function in library databases when used in a search statement and will help you either broaden your search results or narrow the results, depending on what you need. This graphic shows how they work:

​To sum up --

  • AND - looks for ALL the terms in your search, in any order. It is the default for most databases and search engines like Google. If you don't type AND in between your terms, the database will automatically do it.
  • OR - looks for ANY of the terms in your search. It is used to group synonyms together. Normally when you have a single search box, you  put the synonyms within parentheses, e.g. (adolescents OR teenagers OR youth). If you have multiple search lines, you can put the synonymous terms altogether on one line.
  • NOT - will exclude certain terms, and is normally used at the end of a search statement. For example, pharmaceuticals NOT illegal. ​Use this operator with care, because it may exclude some relevant sources.

Using the Boolean operators AND and OR from the previous example, my search might look something like this:

If you search using a single search box, you could do the same search by using this string:
microplastics AND pollution AND (sea OR ocean OR marine)

The database will search for records with the words microplastics and pollution and any of the terms, sea, ocean, or marine.

Pro tip #2

Using Database Filters Effectively​

Another way to make your search results more relevant is to apply database filters on the results page. These filters are viewable in the EBSCO databases on the left side, under Refine Results. For this example, the filters for Source Types > Magazines and Language > English have been applied, limiting the results.

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