¡Bienvenidos a todos! This guide collects together a range of resources for SPN 415, and is geared to help you find the information you will need to complete your senior thesis. If you would like any assistance with your research, have a question related to the subject, or would like to recommend a resource, please do not hesitate to contact me using the information in the box on the right.
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Use the following tips and tricks to refine your search. Most will work in the same way in a broad variety of databases and catalogs, but some systems may have slightly different requirements. It is frequently best to make one change at a time to your existing search, so that you can see which refinements are the most effective. Using Advanced Search options wherever possible will also make it easier to fine-tune your search.
1. Searching for a phrase
If you're looking for a specific phrase, where the words only have meaning in one particular order, put that phrase in quotation marks.
If you're looking for information about entrepreneurs or entrepreneurship, you don't have to pick one or the other, or type in every variant of the word you can think of. Instead, think about the part of the word that stays the same regardless of whether the full form is a noun, a verb, an adjective, etc., and then use a truncation symbol at the part of the word that begins to go in different directions. The truncation symbol is usually an asterisk (*), but sometimes will take the form of a question mark.
What does that actually look like? Looking below, you can see where the suffixes begin to diverge:
Searching with entrepreneur* will catch all of those.
3. Boolean operators
Boolean operators allow you to demonstrate the logical relationships between ideas, using a few very common words in very particular ways. Those words are AND, OR, and NOT. Because most databases and catalogs work on the basis of Boolean logic, mastering this concept will allow you to do more powerful and effective searches. Advanced Search options will almost always make Boolean logic easier to grasp, visually.
Use AND to connect two distinct ideas. Connecting additional terms with AND will narrow your results.
("new england") AND (university)
Use OR to add in variant expressions of one of those ideas. Connecting additional terms with OR will expand your results.
(university OR "higher education" OR college)
Use NOT to exclude a term, especially if it is occuring because it happens to have some superficial overlap with one of your terms. Connecting additional terms with NOT will narrow your results.
("salem state university" NOT "winston salem")
4. Field searching
Within most databases, you can focus your search on a specific part of the item you're looking for. The default in many databases is to search the title, author, keywords, subject terms, and abstract of the article. Much of the time, leaving this setting at its default will get you good results. EBSCO databases in particular use an intelligent combination of fields as the default search.
Sometimes, however, it will seem likely that any article or book on your topic would probably include one of your search terms in the title. When that is the case, try changing the search field from the default to "Title," and see what happens. In JSTOR in particular, this will narrow down your results very quickly (sometimes too quickly!). That is where Boolean logic can help you out: try stringing together some other likely terms, using OR to connect them within one search box, and see if your results improve.
5. Searching by discipline in JSTOR
If you are using JSTOR, and aren't narrowing by discipline, you're probably getting a lot of results that are strikingly off-topic. Focus your results and save yourself some work by selecting the subjects that are relevant for your research.
In the Advanced Search, scroll down the page until you see Narrow by Discipline And/Or Publication Title, then select the subjects that seem most likely to have relevant results for you. If you're unsure of what a subject may comprise, click on the arrow to the left of the name to see the titles of journals in that discipline. (This also means that you can search within a particular journal, if you know that it makes sense to narrow your scope that much.)