You can use a proximity search to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the databases. Proximity searching is used with a Keyword or Boolean search.
The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number (to specify the number of words). The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched, as follows:
Near Operator (N) – N5 finds the words if they are within five words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.
For example, type tax N5 reform to find results that would match tax reform as well as reform of income tax.
Within Operator (W) – In the following example, W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order in which you entered them.
For example, type tax W8 reform to find results that would match tax reform but would not match reform of income tax.
In addition, multiple terms can be used on either side of the operator. See the following examples:
(baseball or football or basketball) N5 (teams or players)
Google Scholar searches the contents of many (but not all) academic journals. However, it does not provide access to the fulltext material. If you are off-campus, you will be prompted to log in or buy the article.
If you follow the Alkek Library link to Google Scholar here, you will have to sign in ONCE with your NET ID and then it’s all clear sailing.
In any case, please don’t buy the article – you can get it through us. If you hit a dead end, use interlibrary loan.
Google Scholar does not search ALL the scholarly literature because some publishers restrict access.
Annual Reviews is a wonderful database that presents bibliographic essays on your academic topic. These essays will explain our current state of understanding the topic as well as listing the important articles and books that you need to read.
These essays provide an effective means of context and deeper understanding of the problem you are researching. You didn’t have to read a sketchy Wikipedia article either!
This is one of my go-to sources for in-depth introductions and entries on complex topics. This is much better than Wikipedia or general encyclopedias. When people start doing research they very often need summaries of their pretty intricate topic. How else are you going to understand those complex journal articles?
Google does not search all the information in the world! Even though libraries and other institutions make their resources available full text online, Google does not search these web sites (otherwise known as the deep web).
Instead, what you’ll typically get on a Google search is a lot of random info that won’t be of use to you in writing an academic paper.
Here are some recent articles documenting maliciously wrong Wikipedia information, and even some articles about entirely fictitious entities. In many cases, the wrong information stayed on Wikipedia for years and was cited by other sources. Food for thought if you are using Wikipedia.
Don’t forget book reviews! Most databases will allow you to select book reviews as a source type. Reason: find out a book’s reputation, any hidden context, its significance among experts, and any problems with the book. Most authors are pretty persuasive and you need a second opinion.
Be sure to limit results to “review” or “book review,” depending on the interface.
You need a good introduction to a HARD topic. Written to get you started, and as intelligent as you are.You already know what the median and mode are; you need a discussion of Bayesian probability, or 12 ways of looking at correlation, or population distribution, etc.
What if there are two are more common or related words and you want to include both of them in your search? You’ll use parentheses – it works like an algebraic equation.
You enter your search into the database like so:
Example (blue or harvest) moon. You’ll get results that include blue and moon and harvest and moon.
(Soviet or Russia) “Cold War”
You’ll get results that include Soviet and “Cold War” AND Russia and “Cold War.”
If you have been doing searches like blue or harvest moon, you’ll get results back that feature only the word blue together with results that mix harvest and moon. No blue moon exactly, just blue….skies, bells, tooth, etc…
The parentheses make sure (those words go together.)
Here’s how to find books and other materials that the Alkek Library doesn’t own.
Use Worldcat to search the world’s libraries at once. Request the item you want through interlibrary loan (for books, expect the process to take a minimum of 6 to 8 days). The tutorial below also shows you how to search area libraries if you want to get the item immediately (if you have a Texshare card).