COR 110 Parsley: Step 3: Search for Information

Step 3: Search for Information

On this page, you will find information about:


Planning a Search

Once you have chosen the database you are going to search, OR you want to use the general Saints Search box found on the library's homepage, it is time to start thinking about how you are going to go about it.

Start by breaking down your research question into its major concepts.  

Example: Are certain populations more affected by the lead contamination in the water in Flint, Michigan?

Concepts: populations, vulnerable or affected, "lead contamination," water, Flint, Michigan

Next think of alternative ways to describe these concepts:

Example: affected -> vulnerable

populations -> people

"lead contamination" -> "lead poisoning"

noun_important_258298.pngThis is also a good time to search your topic in Google to see how subject matter experts are talking about it. What words or terms are they using? Take those back into the database. 

You will use these concepts as search terms by combining them to find articles that meet your research interest.  

A good strategy when searching is to start with a broad search and then use limiters and subsequent searches to narrow your results.  Below are some helpful tips to keep in mind when searching library databases or using Saints Search to search the library catalog.


Search Strategies

Keyword Searching

Keyword searches of databases will perform a search of the entire bibliographic record and the full text of the article where possible.  This means that keyword searches will return the broadest possible results and it is possible to become overwhelmed with unrelated results.  Fortunately you can combine keyword searches with more restrictive criteria to help control the results of your search. 

Example: Searching for the phrase Cormac McCarthy as a keyword will return articles written by him, articles written about him, and even articles specifically excluding him if the author mentioned him by name.

Specific Phrases

If you want to search for a specific phrase then place that phrase in quotes when keyword searching.  

Example: Dungeons and Dragons will show results for the popular game but also anything which deals with dungeons and dragons more generally.  Searching "Dungeons and Dragons" will produce results where that specific phrase appears as written and will help narrow results to the game.

Boolean Operators


noun_tutorial_2366975.pngWatch this short video overview about how to use the above boolean operators. 

Controlled Vocabulary

Authors refer to ideas in a number of different ways.  Authors from different countries might spell the same words differently.  Word meanings might change throughout time or with advancements in a field.  Or an author might refer to an idea without ever explicitly using a word to describe it.  This can make searching for information difficult to do reliably.  Should you search for information on Bell's Palsy by searching for Bell Palsy or Bell's Palsy?  What about facial palsy or facial paralysis?  Do you have to think of every conceivable way to describe an idea in order to make sure you are getting the results you need?   NO!  Databases account for this issue by using a "Controlled Vocabulary" to describe the included records.  Often referred to as "Subject Terms" or "Major/Minor Headings", these vocabularies might vary from database to database, but will be applied consistently within a given database.  By utilizing the controlled vocabulary when searching, the researcher ensures that they access all available content on a given topic within the database.  And by combining these terms with Boolean Operators, it is possible to create very specific searches which quickly address a given research question.


After running your search you will likely be presented with more results than you can practically look through.  This is a great time to start applying limiters. 

In Saints Search (or Primo) search results, you will find relevant limiters on the right hand column under "Tweak My Results."  Applying limiters will refine your existing search results making it more manageable and more relevant. In individual databases, limiters can usually be found on the left hand column. Common limiters are date range for when your resource was published or created, author, format or resource type (ebook, journal article, media), full-text, and for the Saints Search in particular, availability (online or physically at the library).


Citation Tracking

Once you find an article, it may be helpful to check the bibliography for works the author cited.  When possible it is also helpful to check for articles which have cited this article as well.



Watch the 2 minute video overview about citation tracking and how it can help you in your research. 


Searching the Library Catalog using Saints Search

You can start your search using the "Saints Search" box on the library homepage, or use the embedded Saints Search box below, to search the library catalog.

Enter your search terms and then press the purple, magnifying button to launch the search and retrieve your results. 

Advanced Search

You can also click on the "Advanced Search" link located under this search box's purple magnifying glass button to be taken to a new page that provides many options for creating a specific search. 

For example, the red arrows in the below screenshot of an Advanced Search show you how many options you have to refine a search by: limiting your results by: Material Type, Language, and Publication Year; and/or using boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and specific fields for search terms including: Title, Author/Creator, Subject, ISBN (books), ISSN (periodicals), Location, and Library.

noun_important_258298.pngFor your weekly reflection paper, you may want to use the "Publication Date" limiter and select the past year or two years to get articles about "current events." 


The blue arrow shows you where you can go back to the "simple" one search box that you see on the library's homepage.

The green box displays other options you have for different kinds of searching, such as to go to the Journal Search to look up specific journal titles, the Database A-Z list for accessing a specific database or viewing databases by subject, and starting a new search. 


Further Refining your Search Results

Once you have run a search in Saints Search, you can use the menu on the right-hand side of your screen to further refine or filter your results by:

  • Availability (online access versus a physical item held in the library)
  • Resource Type (e.g. articles, books, ebooks, datasets, etc.)
  • Date (you could view results published within a certain date range, such as the last five years)
  • Subject, and so on


Best Practices for Searching the Library Catalog

  1. Break up your topic into key concepts. Use those as keywords or keyword phrases to search in the catalog. Use quotation marks to search an exact phrase or a concept that is more than one word (e.g. "college students").
  2. Start with at least two key concepts. This will narrow your search pool. If you search for a general topic like "psychology" or "college students," you are going to retrieve thousands (if not tens of thousands) of results. 
  3. Use correct spelling. The Library Catalog will not autocorrect you. If you are not sure on the spelling or if there could be multiple ways to spell your keywods, try a Google Search to check. 
  4. Use the limiters (or filters) on the left sidebar menu after you've run a search. This will refine your results to only include certain resource types (Article, Ebooks, Reference Entries, etc.), resources published/created within a certain date range, what is available "right now" (i.e. electronic or print and not checked out), etc.
  5. If you are looking for a specific journal, use the Journal Search.
  6. If you are looking for a specific database, use the Database A-Z list



If you are not finding the results you expect in the library catalog or a database, take a moment to double check the scope and coverage of the resource you are searching.  It might also help to Broaden or Narrow your search, or go back to Google to learn other terms subject matter experts use when discussing your topic.

Broaden Your Search

When you are not finding enough results consider broadening your search by:

  • Adding similar or broader terms using the OR operator which might include your topic.  Example: "Ultraviolet Rays" OR Sunlight
  • Remove overly specific concepts like specific places, specific times, or specific groups
  • Use keyword searching instead of subject searching 

Narrow Your Search

When you are getting too many results consider narrowing your search by:

  • Adding the AND operator to restrict the pool of results.  Example: Peanut butter AND Jelly
  • Adding the NOT operator to exclude results.  Example: Martin Luther NOT King
  • Adding quotation marks to specific phrases of keyword searches. 
  • Select narrower subject terms.  Example: Use Dementia, Vascular in place of Dementia.

Go back to Google

Try searching your topic on Google to see how people are discussing the subject. 

  • What terms are subject matter experts using? You and I may say we have a stomach ache, but a doctor may call it abdominal pain. 
  • Is there different spelling for any of your keywords than what you have been using?
  • Use these newly found terms in a new search.


Interlibrary Loan

If you are searching for a Journal in the Library Catalog and don't get any results, or you come across a citation in a database or search elsewhere and can't access the full-text, you can request to ILL the item. 

What is Interlibrary Loan?

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is a service that allows Carroll students, faculty, and staff to borrow materials and receive copies of articles or book chapters that are owned by another institution.  If Corette Library does not have a book or article that you need in our collection, you can place an ILL request to receive it. 

When do I use it?

When you are using a scholarly source for research, you may be mining its references or works cited pages to see what resources those authors used that could also be relevant to you and your topic. Or, you may be searching a library database and see an abstract for a great article, but they don't offer the full-text for it. Maybe you may come across a book when searching Google Books or Worldcat to see "what else" on your topic is out there, as Corette Library does not own all materials on your topic. 

After you have searched for the item in our library catalog or databases and have seen that we do not own it, you can submit an interlibrary loan request so that Corette Library can borrow them item for you from another institution. It's free for you!

How do I make an Interlibrary Loan Request?

You should submit an Interlibrary Loan Request Form for each item you are requesting. The form can be found on the Corette Library homepage under "Interlibrary Loan." 

  • If you are searching our library catalog and you come across an item we don't have, you will be provided with a direct link to the ILL form from that item's record; the form will pre-populate with the item's information, but you should always double-check to make sure everything is correct.
  • If you are requesting an item from outside of the library catalog, you will need to fill in all the information for the item you are requesting. Take time to put in as much information as you can, as you don't want to incorrectly request something from another library (as they don't know what you want, only you do).


Page Credits

McMaster University Library. "How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT)." YouTube, 28 Nov. 2016,

University Library California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH). "Citation Tracking." YouTube, 18 Dec. 2018,

Wayne State University Library System. "Citation Tracking."