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ENG 499C: Search Tips

This guide is to assist students taking Dr. Sylvia Henneberg's ENG 499C with their research paper.

Header: ENG 499C: Search Tips

Advanced Searching

And, Or, Not

Use AND to narrow your search results.

  • For example, "teens AND smoking" will produce few results than just "teens."
  • Tip: And means Narrow.

Use OR with synonyms to expand your search results. 

  • For example, "teens OR adolescents" will produce more results than just "teens."
  • Tip: Or means More.

Use NOT to exclude certain terms from your search results.

  • For example, "Ulysses NOT Tennyson" will exclude results about Tennyson's poem and focus on Homer's epic instead.
  • Tip: Not means... well, exactly what you think it means.

Work Smarter, Not Harder


When you find a result (article, book, etc.) that is exactly what you're looking for, be sure to review the Works Cited, References, or Bibliography page(s) to see what the author used in their research. Using the title, year, and publication information in the citation, try to determine if any of those works would be helpful in your own research. Then, use the library's search box to try to find those same sources. This isn't cheating, it's just smart, and is letting a key result do some of the legwork for you. 


Always take a moment to look at the databases you're using. Typically there are options on the left or right sides, or the top and bottom of the page, that will allow you to refine your search results. Examples include:

  • the type of result (book, article, peer-reviewed)
  • the subject (British literature versus African American literature)
  • the publication date
  • Full-text availability (especially for index or abstract databases)

Additionally, you should always look for tools that will help with saving, printing, or citing the work. 

Quality, Not Quantity

For any students doing upper-level research, it's best to use subject-specific databases when researching to ensure the more relevant results (this is better than searching all databases at once, which is what the main library search box does). To make sure you're using the right source, visit the Databases A-Z page, and then narrow down the list using the All Subjects drop-down box.