Search Tips

General Tips that Work in Most Searches

Quotation marks search for an exact phrase. For example, if you search with quotations, "medical error,"  your search finds results only with that exact phrase. A search for the phrase without quotations retrieves results that include those two words anywhere in the document.

An asterisk (*) searches for all endings to a word at the same time. For example, mexic*, searches for Mexico, Mexican, and Mexicans.


Web Search Tips

 It may take several attempts to find the right keywords for your search. Be patient and persistent.

1. Keep it simple! Start by typing the name of a thing, place, or concept that you are looking for.
    puppies and “training tips"
    london and "dinner cruises"
    "pasta recipe"
2. Add relevant words if you do not retrieve pertinent results.
    First try: puppy
    More precise: "puppy training"
    Even more precise: "dalmatian pupp*" AND "obedience training"
3. Use words that a professional would use to describe what you are looking for.
    Not ideal: "my head hurts"
    Not slang: "why is my head killing me"
    Better: headache
4. Use only the important words rather than a full sentence or question.
    Not ideal: countries where bats are an omen of luck
    Better: bats and omen and luck
All of the words that you include in your search will be used to find matching content. Too many words will limit your results.


Database Search Tips

What to do when you have too many results:

Start small! Begin with just one or a few search terms, then add additional terms if you find you have too many results.

Use good search terms - Use terms that are more specific than those you originally entered. Do not use OR between terms with different meanings; for example, women OR salary.

Too few search terms - Each time you put in another search term it will give you fewer results. If you choose one general term or keyword for the search box, consider what makes you interested in using it to define your topic.

Use limiters - Limiters such as date and resource type can focus your results list.

Topic is too broad - Narrow the scope of your search. Think about the various aspects of your topic that you plan to cover in your paper and search for them separately, then synthesize the information. Or you may need to narrow your topic because it is too large a topic to cover in a short paper.

What to do when you have too few results:

Is this the best database for your topic? If you are using a database for a specific subject (education, psychology, etc.), searching the Lasell Library catalog, or a multidisciplinary database like Academic Search Premier.

Subject-specific databases are recommended in the Research Guides.

Use good search terms or keywords - Check your spelling and brainstorm synonyms or related terms for your topic. You can use OR between synonyms; for example, salary OR pay OR compensation.

Too many search terms - Each additional term in your search will retrieve fewer results. If you have three or more search terms, remove one to see if your results improve.

Too many limiters - Limiters such as date and resource type provide a targeted results list with fewer results. Use only those that are absolutely necessary.

Your topic is too narrow - What is the broader theme of your topic? Break your topic down and search for different parts separately, then synthesize the information you find.


Catalog Search Tips

What are you looking for? Laser Search is a great place to search for books and articles.

Can you use a limiter to focus your results? After you search, use the facets on the left side of the search results page to the resource type that you are interested in like print books or articles.

Are you looking for a specific article? Search Laser Search to find articles in most of the Lasell databases. If you are assigned to use a specific database, use the list at Article & E-book Databases.