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Library Research Orientation: Introduction

Learn how to use the library catalog, search in databases, and cite your sources.
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Welcome to the Library Research Tutorial

You've just been assigned a research paper and you need five sources for your bibliography.  Where do you start?

Answer: This tutorial!

General Search Tips

In Google, you can usually type full sentences and get millions of results. While this is impressive, it isn't a very efficient way to conduct research, since we rarely click past the first page. It can also be difficult to distinguish between academic sites and junk. One way to cut through the junk is to use library resources, and use them well.

With library resources, you know that most of the results will be academic in nature. The tradeoff is that you have to know how to search like a librarian. To start with, simplify your topic by picking out the most useful words.

Example: "How do the characters of William Faulkner fit my definition of a tragic hero?"
Keywords: Faulkner, Tragic, Hero
  1. Avoid "phrase searching" - Don't write in full sentences!
  2. Come up with 1-3 main keywords - These should be fairly unique so you don't get too many results.
  3. Use Boolean Operators - Combine or omit words from your search using special connectors. AND, OR, and NOT are common Boolean Operators used by most databases.

Boolean Operators


Boolean Operators: Google

You can't always avoid using the open web, but there are ways to search it efficiently. Many search engines automatically use AND if you include more than one keyword in your search term. However, they may use different terms for other features. Check out a search engine's Help section for more information.

Here are some of Google's most common Boolean operators
Word1 Word2 Boolean AND is automatically used between words unless otherwise indicated.
Word1 -Word2 A minus sign (-) excludes search results that contain Word2. (Equivalent to NOT)
Word1 OR Word2 OR searches for pages including either word. It must be capitalized.
"Exact phrase" Quotation marks (" ") search for a phrase in the exact word order.
~Word The tilde (~) searches for a word and any related synonyms.
Define:word Define: searches for links to dictionary definitions of the word Site:(.URL ending) finds sites with a certain domain ending (.org, .gov, etc.) Link:(URL) searches for all pages that link to that particular website.
Filetype:type Filetype:(type) searches only for specific file types (pdf, doc, ppt, xls, etc.)
Units1 in Units2 IN converts units of measurement (8 ft in cm, $100 in euros, etc.)

Cerro Coso Library

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Cerro Coso Library
3000 College Heights Blvd.
Ridgecrest, CA 93555

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