Research Methods

Search Skills

  • Basic concepts for database searching. Concepts and terminology useful in thinking about the two main approaches to search and retrieval of documents. Very brief. See also the larger glossary.
  • Search operator comparison. A one page table comparing basic search operators in three different search engines.
  • Search tips, part one. This covers elementary topics like controlled vocabulary; precision vs recall; how to find better search terms; how to retrieve more or less in a bibliographic database; how to group or combine terms (when a search engine allows grouping of terms with logical and proximity operators). The problems of synonymy and polysemy; single search (federated and unified discovery search systems which attempt to deal with multiple databases).
  • Search tips, part two. More on searching a controlled vocabulary database vs a natural natural language document set. Problems inherent in relevance ranking and secret automatic features. The future.
  • Recent changes in LC subject headings. Including headings for God and the Bible.
  • Assignments and drills. Exercises to help you develop better search skills. Includes some homework assignments for RS101, DM102, BS1004 and other courses.

Database Manuals and Tutorials

Connecting to Databases


EBSCO databases

OCLC databases (WorldCat etc.)

  • WorldCat Local basic search. A very brief video intro.
  • WorldCat Local advanced search. A very brief video intro.
  • FirstSearch databases. How to use OCLC FirstSearch databases, illustrated with WorldCat examples. Warning: very soon the FS interface described here will disappear, to be replaced by something similar to (not the same as the old FS interface to the worldcat data).

Other Databases/Systems

Research Theory


Research Aids

Here is a potpourri of practical tips and aids to research.