Salisbury University Libraries


Holloway Hall

CMAT297 - Communication Research

CMAT 297 Tutorial Table of Contents:

Introduction         Scholarly Sources        Keywords        Finding Books      

Find It Button/ILL     
    Finding Articles       Statistics        Citing Your Work       

Getting Help


Before you just start willy-nilly searching our catalog or databases for books and articles, it might be a good idea to sit down and think about your topic and what search terms would be describe it.  Far too often I have students tell me they can't find anything on their topic, only for me to discover that their search strategies have been lacking.   Please read my advice below before you start your search! 

Keyword Searching

It's very important to remember that our catalog and databases do not search like Google!
It will not work to type in a long phrase with lots of articles and prepositions. 

Here are some helpful keyword hints:

  • Identify simple one or two-word concepts in your topic.
           Example Topic: How are race relations impacted by rap or hip hop music?
           Simple concepts: race, relations, rap, hip hop, music

  • Search your simple concepts with the word AND.  Example: Race AND rap music, race
           AND hip hop. 
    Most of our databases have three search boxes available from the
           Advanced Search screens.  Put each concept on a line and the default search
           operation is "AND" meaning the search will find both sets of terms.  Here is a
           picture if you're one of those visual learners.  (It's okay :)  I am too!)

  • Think of synonyms for your concepts.  Example: Instead of race relations, you might try
            racism, minorities, African Americans, social aspects.

  • Try lots of different combinations of your search terms!  You are unlikely to find exactly
           what you want just by doing one search!

  • Ask me for help if you get stuck!

Subject Searching

Why would you want to do a subject search?  Well, let's say you were interested in finding all the books in the library about cats.  You might find books about cats under "Cats," "Kittens," Felines," or a variety of other keywords.  When you search by subject, then all of the synonyms are accounted for, so "Cats" as a subject would include all the books about "Kittens" and "Felines" as well.  So subjects can help you do a comprehensive search on a topic by accounting for synonyms.

Subjects can also serve to narrow your search.  A keyword search of "cats" would retrieve all the books that just have a few pages about cats, whereas a search of the subject "Cats" would retrieve books where the main focus were those cute, furry creatures!   This website from MIT might do a better job of explaining it than I did!

Come on, get creative!  You can combine subjects or subjects and keywords.  Remember, joining terms with "OR" will get you "MORE" results and joining terms with "AND" will narrow your results.  Savvy researchers try lots of different combinations of terms and discover what yields the best results.  Happy searching!

This tutorial was created by the liaison to Communications, Krista Knapp.  Please let me know if you have questions or comments.  (updated 5/2010)