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Research Roadmaps: Searching & Chaining

Introduction to Research

Citation Chaining

Citation Chaining:  One of the most underused techniques when searching for articles is citation chaining. There are two ways in which you can follow citation chains.

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.

Backward Chaining: This method works with any article. By consulting the bibliography of an article you can discover past works that you should review and cite in your own work.  It is important to 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.


Turning a question into a library search strategy

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

Controlled Vocabulary:   A list of tags that are consistently applied (a thesaurus of terms) are sometimes 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. Search the index using these terms to find terms that are broader, more specific or related.

When there is no Thesaurus easily available: use keywords to search for an article you are already aware of, 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.

+ or AND:  Use + or 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.

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)

- or Not:  Use - or NOT between search terms to exclude ALL of the instances of the word following - or NOT from your search. (Use this only when absolutely necessary it is easy to exclude good results along with the bad using this technique.)

"Phrase Searching":  putting quotes around a phrase tells the computer to look for the exact 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. 

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

Choosing Effective Keywords

Subject Guide

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