Skip to Main Content
[NJIT Library Logo]

Workshop: Beyond Google--Intro to Library Database Searching

Search Strategies for Library Databases

Keyword:  ANY WORD you type in!   A great place to start, but they may not be "key!"

Controlled Vocabulary:   Tags that are consistently applied (a thesaurus of terms) are also called controlled terms, descriptors, subject headings or identifiers.  These are terms selected by an indexer so that all articles on a topic will come up even if the author used a different word to descibe it. Use these terms to find more useful terms that are broader, more specific or related.

Use keywords to search for an article you are already know about, or do a broad search for your subject to find an article about your topic, open the record to see what terms the article is indexed under.  They may be listed as subjects, keywords, or both.  Use these terms to narrow your search.  In some databases these terms may be clickable allowing you to see all articles indexed with a specific term.

AND Use AND between search terms to retrieve ALL of the words in each record.  Many databases default to an AND search if you simply type words in to a search. (Web search engines use a + sign or default to AND).

OR:  Use OR to search synonyms or alternate words on the same topic.  Or is used to expand the number of records retrieved in a search.  When searching with OR the terms must be put in one search box together or grouped with parenthesis  e.g.  (pets OR cats OR dogs--gets records with ANY of those words)

NOT:  Use NOT between search terms to exclude ALL of the instances of the word following - NOT from your search. (Use this only when absolutely necessary it is easy to exclude good results along with the bad using this technique.) (pets NOT dogs--gets records with the word pets, but excludes those that have the word dogs as well)  (Web search engines use a minus sign.)

Boolean Logic in Searching

"Phrase Searching":  putting quotes around a phrase tells the computer to look for the exact string--words next to each other in that order.

Truncation (*):  Use the truncation/wildcard symbol to search different forms of a word.  For example, engin* will retrieve Engineer, Engine, Engineered, Engineering, etc. Some search engines do this automatically.


*Information on this page built on a University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libguide.

Citation Chaining

Backward Chaining: This method works with any article. Consult the bibliography at the end to discover past works to review and cite in your own work.  Pay attention to both the titles of the works cited and why they are cited in the text because some titles may not look relevant to your own work, but may be cited in a way that indicates they are highly relevant.

Forward Chaining: This method works best when you have an article that is highly relevant to your question.  The older the article the more likely it is to have been cited by others. SCOPUS and Google Scholar allow you to see how many times an article has been cited and by whom.  This allows you to see who built upon the work of the original article.  Use:


Scopus    Useful for locating citing references (Click on Cited by) and for performing analyses by author or paper.  Watch these videos.


Google Scholar    Click "cited by" underneath each citation to find publications that have cited that paper. watch this video Google Scholar is good for locating finding conference proceedings, pre-prints or technical reports. 



New Jersey Institute of Technology
University Heights, Newark, New Jersey 07102-1982
(973) 596-3206
Contact Us | Ask A Librarian |  Map & Directions | A to Z Site Index

Copyrighted 2024 | Robert W. Van Houten Library