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MC 4020 Public Relations Research: Searching Tips - Databases

How to Identify and Locate Sources

This tutorial should take 30 minutes to complete. When you are done, you should be able to:   

  • Select appropriate databases to search for the kinds of sources you need
  • Develop a search statement for targeted search results
  • Narrow or broaden your search results
  • Select the most relevant results

How to Evaluate Sources

This tutorial should take you approximately 20 minutes to complete.

When you are done, you will be able to:

  • Understand why evaluation is important  
  • Determine what type of source you have found       
  • Determine whether a source is scholarly or peer-reviewed
  • Determine whether a source is relevant to your research
  • Evaluate sources based on a variety of criteria

Searching Tips

Boolean Operators

There are three Boolean operators that are used to connect terms and tell databases how and what to search for: AND, OR, NOT.

AND is to combine terms, usually unlike terms/concepts. AND narrows a search. Example: social media AND teenagers

OR is typically used with synonyms and similar terms. OR broadens a search. Example: teenagers OR adolescents

NOT is used to exclude something. Example: teenagers NOT bullying

We use parentheses to help group parts of the search query, especially when we have several parts, and to tell the database the order of the query. Think about the search query as a mathematical equation.

All put together, they look like this:

social media AND (teenager OR adolescent) NOT bullying

Truncation & Wildcards

Truncation allows you to find different endings to a word. The symbol in many databases is: *

Example: teenage* captures teenager, teenagers, teenaged.

Be careful not to truncate too far into the word. For example: car*  will capture car, cardiology, carbohydrate, caramel, carabidae, carassius, and thousands more words.

carbohydrat* would be a better way to truncate.

Wildcards are symbols used within a word to represent a letter for a variation on spelling. While not every database uses them anymore, for those that do, the symbol is often ? or $, though always best to check the database documentation.

Example: behavio$r captures both the American spelling, behavior, and the British spelling, behaviour

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