TutorialsTutorials to help with library researching, citing, and more
Tutorials on searching | More tutorials: ILL | Citing & Plagiarism | Zotero
Creating a Search Strategy
Learn to design an effective search strategy. Save time and get better results.
As you might know, library research databases work differently than Google. This video will cover some strategies for searching library databases effectively.
Most of us are pretty good at searching Google these days. Just type in a few keywords, and it’s usually easy to find what you want.
But, using library databases means you’re going to have to spend some time thinking about how and what you are going to search. That’s your search strategy, and coming up with one can you save you a lot of time and effort.
One study found that students with a good search strategy spent 50% less time searching for sources than students who just put in a few random words.
Students that use a search strategy think about the words they are going to use, and the words they aren’t going to use, and how they’re going to put them together.
Let’s say you’ve decided to write a paper on this question: “What are some effective health care solutions for refugees in Europe?” You can take the path of least resistance and copy and paste the question words into Global Search — but that will most likely give you poor results. Or you could take a few minutes and come up with a search strategy.
Let’s give it a try. First, we want to pick out only those words that are directly related to our research question, and eliminate the ones that aren’t going to help us much.
“What,” “are,” “some,” “for,” and “in” are not words specific to our research question so we’re not going to use them.
What about “solutions?” It could help, but it could also appear in a lot of information not directly related to our question, so let’s eliminate it for now.
That leaves us with three great keywords: “healthcare,” “refugees,” and “Europe.”
Now we’re ready to put those words together. Unlike Google, which often places an invisible AND between all your keywords, in most library databases you must add the word AND between your keywords.
So we need to change “healthcare, refugees,” “Europe” to “healthcare AND refugees AND Europe.”
So we’re done, right? Not so fast. Library databases also use another important word to combine key terms, and that word is the magical OR. OR can add so much to your search!
As you know there are many different terms you can use for the same idea or concept. You can use OR to include these other words — words like synonyms, related words, and examples.
So for the word “refugee” we could also use the words migrant, asylum seeker, and evacuee. And for “healthcare” we could also use a related word like medicine.
Now we need to put these together with our other words.
Library databases do this with the use of OR and parentheses. Anytime you use an OR, you want to make sure you nest the related words in parentheses.
In this example you are telling the database to look for resources that include the word Europe AND the words refugees or asylum seekers plus the words healthcare or medicine.
This will produce results like this one, that definitely include the word “Europe” and either the word “refugees” or “asylum seekers” and either “healthcare” or “medicine.”
There really is no limit to how many words you can use, for example: “Europe AND (refugees OR migrants OR asylum seekers OR evacuees) AND (healthcare OR medicine OR health).
So, next time you need to use a library database, save yourself time, effort, and frustration by following these steps.
Enter only those words that are directly related to concepts in your research question.
Eliminate words that are not relevant.
Come up with synonyms and other words related to your keywords.
Put them together with ANDs and ORs.
This will give you results that are much more relevant than if you just pasted the question into the search box.
Using Global Search
Learn to use Global Search effectively.
Many academic libraries these days have a global search tool. This tool is similar to Google Scholar, but it’s specifically designed to access library resources. It conveniently searches across dozens of research databases and the library catalog all at once. Using Global Search can be a little tricky because it’s a rather complex system. But there are some useful tips you can learn to search effectively. Let’s take a look.
Ahmed has carefully thought about his search strategy and entered this search:
Europe AND (refugees or asylum seekers) AND (healthcare or medicine).
He used a carefully thought-out search strategy, so he got a pretty good list of results. However, there were so many! He felt a bit overwhelmed.
He wondered how to narrow down these results to find the best ones. And he was also confused about the many different links for getting the full text.
One of the first things to know is that most library databases are paid for by CEU Library and not open to the world. So Ahmed needed to make sure he was logged in to the CEU VPN service in order to get full access to articles. Luckily, he had already set up his AnyConnect VPN account, so he logged in.
Next, Ahmed wondered about all the different links to full text under each result. Some of them said “Full text option(s).” Others said “Full text in JSTOR” or full text in some other databases.
He wondered which ones to click on first. Since Global Search is a complex system bringing together information from many disparate sources, the best approach is to just try any of the full text links until you get to articles that are useful to you.
If there is no full text, Ahmed could use CEU Library’s Interlibrary Loan service to request the item from another library.
Now let’s talk about narrowing your search. Ahmed noticed that on the left side of the results page there were many options under Refine Results.
Some of the most useful options were listed under “Limit To.” Ahmed checked “full text” and the number of results went down by almost 700.
You might wonder…. isn’t everything full text? Not really. That’s because some databases only contain citations to articles. So those results would not have full text, just a citation. Ahmed did’t want to wait to order articles from other libraries using interlibrary loan, so he focused on the ones that he could download immediately.
Next Ahmed noticed the Publication Date filter. For his topic he was interested mainly in more recent articles, so he changed the range to 2015 to the current year. After moving his cursor out of the date box, the results filtered down to 821. A much better set of results! But still too many to go through one-by-one.
Then he noticed the checkbox for Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals. For this research paper, he didn’t need to use newspapers or popular magazines, though you might want to for some other topics. So he checked the box and his results set went down to 616. Good.
Another useful feature is narrowing by Subject. Ahmed checked the boxes for “refugees” and “health services accessibility.” With each checkbox, his results became more focused on the topics he wanted. You could try various options to get the results that are most useful to you. Ahmed found articles that were exactly what he was looking for.
There are many other useful ways to refine your results, such as Language, Geography, and more. You can experiment with these get the most relevant results. You might even decide to change the focus of your topic based on results that you found.
So remember, in addition to using a well-thought-out search strategy, these methods can help you narrow your results to articles that are relevant and useful for your topic.
Using Google Scholar
Learn to use Google Scholar effectively.
Many people use Google Scholar as a way to find scholarly sources. So it’s good to know a few tips for searching it, because it doesn’t work the same way as library databases, or even Google.com.
First, you should know that Google Scholar indexes most but not all peer-reviewed online academic journals & books. It also indexes conference papers, theses & dissertations, preprints, abstracts, technical reports, court opinions, and patents.
Google doesn't publish a list of journals they index, but one study estimates that it includes 90% of all scholarly documents on the web (of those written in English).
So here are some tips for searching. When you get search results, they will be sorted by relevance. For some topics it might be useful to sort by date to get the most current sources. You can find that option in the sidebar. You can also filter your results more specifically, by following links like this one: “since 2017.” You can also enter a custom date range.
As you’re scanning through your results, you’ll notice that under each one there’s a link called “related articles.” Click on that if a particular article looks useful and you’ll find more that are similar.
Another useful feature is the “cited by” link under each result. This link shows how many other sources cited it and you can click through to find those sources.
When you follow a link to get a particular article, you might see some options for purchasing it, especially if you’re not located in the library or using CEU’s VPN. Chances are, you won’t need to pay for an article, because the library subscribes to most sources that you’ll need. So be sure to turn on the CEU VPN when you begin your search in order to access our subscribed content.
You should also let Google Scholar know that CEU is your institution. Then it will display special links to sources that CEU Library subscribes to. Look for this option in Settings under “library links.” Enter “Central European University” and save that option. Google Scholar will then display links to CEU’s sources. The links will say “find it@CEULibrary” and they’re found on the right side of the screen next to specific results.
If you would like to use the advanced search feature for a more specific search, you can find it in the upper left menu. Just click the three bars, then Advanced Search. This will bring up a screen that allows you to search by exact phrase, limit to a particular journal, exclude particular words, and several other useful features.
So that’s Google Scholar. To get some tips about Google searching beyond Google Scholar, see our guide to Google Search Techniques. There you can learn to use advanced search, personalize your results, and get tips for adjusting your settings, including privacy settings.
Remember you can always contact the library for help with Google Scholar or with getting particular articles. Just email “contactLibrary@ceu.edu.”
Off-Campus Access: VPN
Learn to access CEU Library's resources from off-campus.
Katarina needed to work on her assignment on a holiday but the campus was closed.
She thought she remembered hearing the phrase “VPN for remote access” from her classmates and from the librarians. So she went to the Library website and learned how to access online library materials while off campus by using CEU’s VPN.
She checked the instructions and learned that she needed to install Cisco AnyConnect software on her computer. She downloaded it from the CEU IT Sharepoint site and set it up with their instructions.
Next, she started the software and connected to vpn.ceu.edu. She needed to use her CEU Outlook email user name (not her full e-mail address) and the password. So she put those in and clicked connect.
After the VPN software was connected, she went to the Library’s homepage and typed in her search. Now she could get to to the same resources she’d be able to access if she was on campus. She could read articles online or download them for offline reading.
She noticed that some articles and ebooks displayed a CEU Library logo and some included the sentence: „Access provided by CEU Library.” So she knew her VPN connection was working.
She also liked to use Google Scholar and had previously set it up so that Google knew which university she belonged to. She could see the special links: „@findit at CEU Library” next to each result. With the VPN on, she could use those links to get to the library-subscribed articles without paying.
Katarina heard that her classmate Ralf also wanted to access library materials from off campus but he had problems with installing the AnyConnect software. She tried to help him but she wasn’t familiar with how to install it on a Mac. So, they emailed the IT Help Desk and got the help he needed.
Katarina and Ralf could now use the databases, ejournals, and ebooks subscribed to by the CEU Library for their mutual assignment.
Learn about borrowing from other libraries with interlibrary loan (ILL).
When Abed started his research paper he was content to use the materials available from the CEU Library. But when he dug deeper it turned out that CEU Library didn’t have a few of the sources he needed.
As he was searching, he noticed that some items were listed, but not available in CEU Library’s subscriptions. Those items said next to them, “request from another library.”
So he followed that link and filled out the Interlibrary Loan form (also known as ILL). He put in as much information as he had about the book he needed. He selected the pickup location and submitted the form.
Then, he wondered how long it would take to get the book, so he looked at CEU Library’s ILL page which had the answer to his question, along with several other answers he found useful.
A few days later he received an email saying that the book he requested was available in a nearby Library in Vienna. The email gave him directions to that library and information about how to access it.
He also needed a journal article so he filled out the form and later got an email with options for picking it up at the Library’s information desk.
Using ILL became almost an everyday practice for Abed. He could get books, articles, book chapters, conference proceedings, and more. The librarians always did their utmost to get him what he needed. Only occasionally would they find that there were no copies available.
One time he wanted to get a thesis that was only available in a remote location, not available via ILL. So a CEU Librarian connected him to the author and they began a correspondence about their mutual research interest.
So Abed was happy and excited about the fact that he could get access to almost anything he needed, with the help of the CEU librarians.
Citing and Plagiarism
Learn why and how to cite appropriately so that you can avoid plagiarism.
Last year Natalia wrote an excellent research paper. She spent months researching — reading, analyzing, thinking, and writing. Her professor was very impressed with her paper. In fact, she was so impressed that she suggested that Natalia submit it to a journal for publication.
A few months later another student read her paper and decided to use a few ideas and words from it, but didn’t realize that he needed to gave Natalia credit. When Natalia found out and read his paper, she was pretty upset and took it up with the Dean of Students.
Most students know that you shouldn’t quote directly from another person’s work without citing them, or worse, submit an entire work as if it were your own. But did you know there are other practices that can qualify as plagiarism?
That’s right. For example:
Copying verbatim a few phrases or sentences from the work of others without attribution.
Paraphrasing sections of another text without any reference in the body text. Just including it in your bibliography or reference list is not enough.
It doesn’t matter whether you use the same ideas without using direct words, or if you use direct quotes. Either way you need to give credit to the original creator. The only time you don’t need to cite something is if it is common knowledge.
Not only is it important to give the original author the credit they deserve, but it’s also important to allow your reader to track down the sources you used. You do this by citing them accurately. That’s why there are detailed citation styles for specific disciplines that you must use when formatting your citations.
So how should you cite something you want to use? Various disciplines publish their own guidelines of how to cite sources and format research papers.
Since there are several different options for styles, be sure to ask your professor which style they prefer for their course.
Some examples of these are: ASA (American Sociological Association), APA (American Psychological Association), The Bluebook, for Law, CMS (Chicago Manual of Style) for various subjects, and MLA (Modern Language Association) for Humanities.
These styles differ quite a bit in their details on how to format your references. Here’s the same citation, formatted in three different styles.
It can be hard to remember everything you need for a particular type of citation and the good thing is you don’t have to keep all these details in your head.
There are many websites that can help you put together bibliography entries and also many databases can do it automatically.
When you cite your sources properly, readers know what works you used and how you used them. And they can easily locate them. In this way you avoid unintentionally plagiarizing the work of others. If the student who copied ideas from Natalia’s paper had done this, Natalia would have received the credit she deserved.
Want to learn more?
For links to various style guides, see our guide to Citing Sources and Academic Integrity.
Also, you can download software for managing your bibliographies on our Citation Management page.
Good luck with your papers!
Learn how to use the Zotero citation manager.
Irina had been working for more than a week on her latest research paper. She was using an effective search strategy so she found many good sources for her topic.
But now, she was beginning to feel overwhelmed with managing all those sources! She was keeping several lists in a Word document, but it was getting too long to manage effectively. And she needed to look up and remember the correct citation styles to use.
She was talking about this with her friend Malika who was also working on a scholarly paper. Malika recommended that she get Zotero, a free, easy-to-use tool for organizing, citing, and sharing her sources.
So Irina downloaded it on her laptop, and also on another computer that she used from time to time. She was happy to notice that it’s free and available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Malika told her a few things about Zotero. First, Zotero makes it easy to save citations using a browser extension. You can also enter citations manually.
Next, Zotero lets you organize your citations into collections and tag them with keywords. Irina was glad to know that because she had citations for two different papers she was working on.
Another useful feature is that Zotero creates citations in the style you need, whether it’s University of Chicago, MLA, APA, or some other format. Irina was glad to hear that because she had been painstakingly formatting each citation manually, while looking up the correct styles online. So she downloaded and installed the word processor plug-in to integrate this feature with her writing.
Irina was also happy to hear that she could keep her data in sync across multiple computers. She had a Windows laptop and also a Mac at home and she sometimes worked from different locations with the laptop. With Zotero synchronizing her data, she could start work on one computer, and finish it on another.
Malika also told her about another useful feature: groups. Groups allow you to share references with other Zotero users online. It’s a great way to work on collaborative research projects. You can create your own groups or join an existing group. You can make your group public or private. Some groups share their reference lists publicly while keeping editing available only to group members.
Irina was curious about this, so she went to Zotero’s groups page and searched with the keyword, “refugees.”
One group was especially helpful to her: Neighborhood and Refugees. She browsed through the publicly viewable list and found a few more references for her paper.
Irina made a mental note to use this groups feature the next time she was collaborating on a paper.
Now that Irina had Zotero, she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of its features! So she decided to read the online instructions offered by CEU Library as a way to get started.
She also signed up for an online workshop offered by CEU library staff, who were super-helpful and answered all of her questions.
Irina thanked Malika for telling her about Zotero. It was already making her life as a student scholar easier.
More Tips for Zotero
Learn some useful tips for Zotero citation manager.
Irina had been using Zotero for a few weeks and now felt comfortable with most of its features. She was using the browser extension, saving to multiple collections, exporting to different citation formats, and synchronizing between her laptop and home computer.
Now she felt ready to learn even more of Zotero’s features. So she asked her friend Malika for help — Malika was a wizard with Zotero!
The first feature Malika told her about was Notes. For each citation in Zotero, you can add a note. Just select a citation, switch to the Notes tab, then click Add Note. You’ll get a screen where you can add any notes you like, so you can remember specific ideas about the source and why you’re using it. You can even format your notes with bold, italic, lists, and hyperlinks. And you can add multiple notes for each citation.
Irina found this very handy as a way to keep track of detailed information for her paper. She was glad to learn about this, since she had been storing her notes elsewhere. Now everything could be found in one place — within Zotero.
The next feature Malika told her about was the ability to extract annotations from PDFs. Irina often read PDF articles in Adobe Acrobat or other PDF reader apps. There she would highlight certain passages and add annotations. In Zotero she could extract those annotations and save them as notes. This was super handy! Now even more important information could be stored in Zotero, making it easier to write her paper.
One problem Irina sometimes had was keeping track of all her citations for different parts of a paper. Some citations were for the introduction, others for the literature review, and others for the results or conclusion. So Malika told her how to make use of tags for that. Just click on a citation and switch to the tab called Tags. Click the Add button and make up a tag. After you have several tags created, you only need type the first letters of the tag and you’ll see a list of your existing tags to choose from.
Malika even told Irina about a way to color-code her tags. Colors make it easy to quickly scan your whole library for a certain tag. Just find the tag in the tag selector, right click on it, and choose Assign Color. The colors show up as small squares next to each title.
One additional problem that Irina had was that one of her courses required a citation style that wasn’t in Zotero’s list of styles. Malika told her not to worry. Zotero has the ability to import other citation styles — in fact, over 10,000 additional styles! Just open Zotero’s preferences, switch to the Cite tab, and click on “get additional styles.” From there you can search for the name of the style, or browse by discipline, such as sociology. Click on the name of the style you need and it adds itself to the list of styles in Zotero. Irina was relieved because this would save her the work of manually formatting her citations for that particular paper.
Now that Irina was making use of all these features, she felt ready to effectively work on research papers for multiple courses. She thanked her friend Malika for all of her tips!
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