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HI 1314: Introduction to Early American History: Search Tips

Professor Steven C Bullock

Top 5 Search Tips

  1. Keyword searching:
    1. Identify your topic’s key concepts. You may want to do some background research in online encyclopedias. These are not sources that you will cite in your research but they can provide useful information to help you identify concepts and keywords related to your research topic.
    2. Brainstorm synonyms for your keywords: Search for synonyms for your keywords and concepts to increase the number of relevant search results.
    3. In database search results, look at the article titles and abstracts in your search results to find additional keywords to search for.
    4. Read! The more you read about your topic, the more you'll pick up on the jargon used in that field, which will help you to refine your searches and find relevant sources.
  2. Search filters: When searching in databases, use search filters on the search results page to narrow down your search. Some of the most common filters are:
    1. Publication Date
    2. Source Format/Resource Type (book, journal, video, etc.)
    3. Subject 
    4. Peer-reviewed/Academic Journal
  3. Get the full text of a source:
    1. Some of the library's databases only provide abstracts for sources. Look for the FullTextFinder icon on the search results page. If you only have the summary/abstract of an article, click on the FullTextFinder to search all 200+ library databases for the full-text.
    2. Use Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Submit an ILL request to get full-text journal articles, books and book chapters that are not available through the Gordon Library. ILL is a service that allows you to request these materials, and library staff will try to get these materials for you from another library. 
  4. Often finding one helpful source can lead you to more:
    1. Check bibliographies for additional relevant sources.
    2. Some databases provide “cited by” links for articles - these links help you find sources that have cited an article and built on the authors' research.
    3. Some databases provide “related articles” links to connect you to articles on similar topics. 
  5. Ask a librarian! 
    1. Librarians are here to help you with your research. Reach out to the library via chat, email, or by requesting a research consultation: 

Advanced Search Tips

Use these search terms to narrow or broaden your search. These search terms work in WPI Library Search and in most of the library's databases


witchcraft AND "New England"
Narrows the search to entries containing both terms.
"American Indian" OR "Native American"
Broadens the search to entries containing either term.
Stonewall NOT Jackson
Excludes entries containing the second term.
“ ”
“Benjamin Franklin”
Retrieves results containing the exact phrase in quotes.
Wildcard: Retrieves both globalization and globalisation.
Truncation: Retrieves witch, witches, witchcraft, etc.