This little book has given you an overview of doing library research. It does not cover every eventuality and there are exceptions to most of the ideas presented. Basically, you start by choosing a topic, thinking about it, determining questions about it and words that truly capture your topic.
When you are ready to start searching, you now know a variety of ways to control your search: choose words capturing your topic, combine your words (Boolean, phrases and proximity) and choose which fields in the records to search (title, abstract, full text and so on). We also discussed that limits, such as publication dates, can help define a search. Remember to do multiple searches. Rarely does one search in one database satisfy.
We discussed the different types of information and how information morphs from one type to another: the immediacy of daily news, to a book, to articles and so on. We also covered which databases to choose based on both the type of information you want (books, articles, films) and your topic since some databases are highly specialized covering specific fields in depth (nursing, business, psychology…).
It is also clear that this is not a linear process. You do not do research then write a paper and you are done. Rather, you think, research, read, write and repeat all these in any order as needed.
Though we kept what is offered in this book simple, research is not always easy. What you have read here will take you all the way through graduate studies, if that be your goal. When you feel you have the hang of basic searching, try using multiple strategies in one search. Here are a couple of examples:
Using truncation, put a phrase search and proximity search together in the abstract field: “Sierra Nevada Mountains” w/5 drought* in the abstract field
Try a Boolean OR with phrase searching in the title field and limit publication date to after 2001: “United States of America” OR “United States” OR “U. S. A.” in the title field and limit publication date to after 2001
This book did not cover all ways to search such as left-hand truncation or nesting which is a way of combining searching with all the Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in one search. It is more complicated than it seems at first glance. Librarians spend a couple semesters in graduate school learning about databases and how to use them, so there is no expectation that, after mastering the skills in this book, you will never need help again. Ask librarians for help. It will save you time.
Remember, if you don’t find anything or the search results seem just not right, use a different strategy. Change the words you use, how you combine them, the field you chose and/or choice of database. Always remember that there is professional librarian help available. There are many possible ways to contact your librarians. Check your library’s website for phone numbers, email address, 24/7 chat and location. Yes, in most libraries you can walk in and speak to a librarian about your research project from developing your topic to finding the information you need. In some institutions, you are welcome to make an appointment.
Empower yourself by discovering how to find good information about what sparks your curiosity. If you have not yet figured out what your profession will be, pay attention to what makes you curious: It could be a really good clue on how to spend your life. Stretch yourself out of your comfort zone and into the realm of dissolving assumptions. In such a case, learning can be a little shocking or at least, surprising. The best kinds of surprises are those that reverberate in our lives.