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ENG 130: Reading Popular Texts

Dr. Danielle Mitchell

Begin Your Search

Keyword Searching

Which words you choose when searching can greatly affect your results. When conducting a search, it's not uncommon to receive too many or too few results, often leading to utter frustration. When this happens, using synonyms or a thesaurus to create alternative text could provide you with more accurate search results.


TV versus Television

Old versus Antique versus Vintage

New versus Modern

Film versus Movie

News versus Media


Boolean Searching

This type of searching allows researchers to combine words using the operators AND, OR, and NOT to expand or limit their search.



It is important that researchers remember to use filters to limit their search results. By using filters such as language, date of publication, discipline, or content type, researchers will have few results to comb through, thus making their search more efficient. Using filters and limiters can greatly increase the chance of finding more appropriate and effective resources.


Evaluate Your Resources

Search Smarter, Not Harder

These tips work in many of Penn State's databases:

  1. Explore the database's "Advanced Search" or "Expert Search." There, you will find ways to improve or focus your search.
  2. To figure out the correct terminology, explore the database's "thesaurus." Or, find one good article, and look at the "subject" words or "keyword" tags that are used to describe the topic of the article. Use words from the thesaurus and subject tags in your search. 
  3. Many advanced search screens provide 2-3 boxes, allowing you to combine topics. Usually, you should use one box for each concept or variable. For example, if you are searching for "diabetes in kids," type "diabetes" in the first (top) box, and "children" in the second box (underneath the first box). 
  4. To find more articles, try synonyms combined with "OR" (in capital letters). For example "children OR juvenile OR youth" will find more articles than simply "children."
  5. Use an asterisk (*) to search for variations from a root word. For example, child* will find articles with the words child, children, or childhood. This "truncation" search usually finds more articles.
  6. To find fewer articles, use "limiters." Most databases allow you to check-off options for peer-reviewed articles, the publication date, and language. 
  7. To left or right side of the search boxes, you may see drop-downs that may allow you to focus your search on the title or abstract of the article. In many databases, this can be a helpful way to narrow down your search. 
  8. After you search, make sure that the database is listing articles according to "relevance," instead of publication date. 
  9. Usually, the first search you attempt isn't the best one. Try a variety of strategies. Take photos or print out your search screens to keep track of which words and limiters you've already used. 
  10. Explore the database's "help" or "support" links to learn additional tips. 
  11. If you need more help, contact your librarian or visit Penn State's Ask a Librarian page.