Computer Law (Professor Chris Cotropia)
Ten Search Tips
1. Choose the most appropriate databases by reading the brief descriptions of their content (You can also always come to the Reference Desk for assistance with your database selection.).
To find these descriptions, look for the “i” for information icons.
2. Quickly read any help files that describe how to search most effectively within that particular database (especially before jumping into an unfamiliar database).
To find this documentation, on the database main page, click on “I” or “About” or “Help” or “User Guide.”
3. Try to use Terms & Connectors along with Segment or Field searching. Only use Natural Language searching if you cannot think of any search terms with which to begin.
4. Break down your query into several discrete concepts. For example, if you would like to find material on digital rights management, you may have to think about other concepts/phrases that might come into play.
- circumvention and/or anti-circumvention
- password protection
- anti-copy software
5. Prepare a list of synonyms, broader and narrower terms, abbreviations, variants due to hyphenation (cyber trespass, cybertrespass, cyber-trespass) and alternative ways of describing your subject in case your searches are not yielding the type of results you expect and to ensure a comprehensive search. For example, a few alternates might be:
- virtual worlds
- online or digital worlds
- virtual people
- Second Life or World of Warcraft
Note: If the database you are preparing to search is indexed using a controlled vocabulary (usually labeled as “subject headings”), then browse the database thesaurus or index to help choose your search terms (because these will be the preferred terms consistently used by the indexers). Usually, you will be directed to the preferred term via cross-references.
6. Set limits for your search such as (1) published within a given date range; (2) only peer reviewed journals; (3) publication type (periodical, book, etc.); and (4) document type (article, book review).
7. Refine your search terms using the most appropriate of the following options:
Add additional search terms, as well as AND, OR, NOT.
Search for more or longer phrases, usually placing them in quotes.
Check the database’s “Help” file to find out what the truncation symbol is for that database (usually an ! or an *) and use it to retrieve words with variant endings simultaneously:
Infring! - will retrieve infringe, infringing, infringement.
Anonym! - will retrieve anonymity and anonymous.
Originat! – will retrieve originate, origination, originator.
Wildcard searching can retrieve words with variant spellings (symbol is often an ? or an *):
Organi?ation – will retrieve both organization and organisation
Use proximity operators particularly when searching full text. Again, check the database’s “Help” file for the correct operator:
copyright ADJ infringement – directs that copyright must be ADJACENT to infringement in the text
Digital w/1 privacy – directs that digital must be WITHIN 1 word of privacy in the text
Net SAME neutrality – directs that net must be in the SAME sentence as neutrality
8. Perform Segment or Field searches to search within only the article: Abstract; Title; Author; Keyword
9. Try browsing an online index to determine the preferred term(s) if you still are not getting anywhere with your current search terms. Most online indexes will direct you to the preferred term via cross-references:
For example, in some databases “internet service provider” might be the preferred term as opposed to “ISP.”
10. The point of diminishing returns is the point at which you quit researching (when you begin to find many of the same articles or other sources repeatedly in different databases).