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Hope Library Guides

English 113 - DeNotto: Tips for searching

Search Tips

Keep your searches simple

Brainstorm different ways to describe what you are looking for

Learn from your search results (there is no such thing as a "failed" search)

Take advantage of special search tools like Boolean operators, Wildcards, and Subjects

Break down complex questions into different parts


Okay search vs. Super geeked out search

Example topic: video games and their effects on teenage aggression

Okay Search:




Tips and Tricks

Search Tips/Tricks

Or, how to completely geek-out your searches





X and Y

Searches for both

race AND ethnicity

X or Y

Searches for either

race OR ethnicity


Searches for a phrase

“cultural appropriation”


Searches for multiple endings

cultur* (finds culture, cultural, culturally, etc.)

Boolean Operators


Step 1: Identify Big Ideas

Step 1: Identify the main concepts in your research question.

For the research question "Where can I find a local sustainable vendor? The big ideas are identified as "geographic location," "Sustainability," and "Place to purchase food."

Step 2: Brainstorm keywords

Step 2: Brainstorm keywords (search terms) that relate to your main concept.

Lists of keywords relating to the big ideas: Geography (Michigan, "West Michigan," Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven), Sustainability (sustainable, local and sustainable, farm-to-table), Places to purchase food (vendor, "food distributor," co-op, "food cooperative").


Image result for generating keywords

More examples

Identifying keywords and related terms

Let's identify some keywords, related terms, and concepts from these sample research questions, AND, let's think about what might be some authoritative/important sources of information on these topics:

Dr. J 

-How is studying abroad more beneficial than studying on the main campus?

-What caused the end of the American muscle car era?

-What are Nike's means of production and recent allegations about it, and how do they contradict the company's mission?

-What effects has the Astros 2019 cheating scandal had on the MLB, and potentially will have?

-What are the best skincare products for different skin types?


What was life like after the war for Japanese war veterans?

How were Japanese people treated during and after WWII in the United States?

I'd like to know more about comfort women in WWII.



In-class search problems

Turn these topics into geektastic database searches!

Link to all Hope College Databases

1. ​Gender inequality in pay

Search the Database "Social Sciences Full-Text"

2. The ways in which immigrants adapt to American society

Search the Database "Sociological Abstracts"

3. ​How parental involvement impacts their children's education

Search the Database "Education Full-Text"