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Brainstorm keywords and write them down.

Cigarrettes Smoking Teens Teenagers Adolescents Children Addiction School

If a certain word does not return many results, try a more general term. For example, "adolescents" is commonly used in psychology, but is less common in other disciplines.

Use Boolean operators to create better searches. Not all databases use the same operators - check the database help page to see which operators can be used.

Operator Results Example
AND returns results with both words teenagers AND children
OR returns results with either word addiction OR smoking
NOT returns result without the word cigarrettes NOT cigars
"" returns results with the exact phrase "issues of health"
? replaces a single letter, returns various spellings of a word wom?n returns woman and women
* returns all results that start with the phrase smok* returns smoke, smoking, smokers, etc

 Example search

(teenagers OR adolescents) AND smok* NOT "after school program"



Choose your starting point: 

  • Use a large, general database (like ProQuest Central, Google Scholar, and JSTOR above)
    Good when you want to focus on a particular perspective, like Psychology or Political Science.
  • Use a specialized database focused on your topic. You can find them organized by subject
    Good for topics that cross disciplines.
  • Use a bibliography listing articles available on your topic.
    Good when you're having trouble finding what you need.

Pay attention to which databases are free, and which are fee based.
Who is the intended audience of the article? Who has access to it?

Good General and Interdisciplinary Databases


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Look for "Related Terms" in Encyclopedias to find keywords.

Remember: The source you select will determine what information you find.

Consider the source: Is the journal appropriate to your topic? Is the author an authority in the field? What are his/her affiliations?

Don't get discouraged! Finding information that is right for your topic takes time and thought.

If you aren't finding what you need, consider 1) searching for synonyms and alternate terms, 2) choosing another database, or 3) revising your topic.

It can be hard to remember where and how you've searched. Keep a research journal to avoid duplicating your work.

Scholarly publications are sometimes called Academic or Peer Reviewed.


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Can't find full text? Click the Journal Finder link on the library homepage to see all print and online access to the journal you need.

If we don't have it, just use Interlibrary Loan!

NEXT: Finding Scholarly Articles