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High School Students: National History Day Projects

Books, Videos & More

Use the Library Catalog to search for books, videos and more on your topics!

Search Tips

For additional information about identifying, locating and selecting primary sources, see the Types of Sources library guide.

Use quotation marks around multi-word nouns or phrases when doing a search.

Example: “investigative reporting” or “Vietnam War.” Phrasing forces the database to see the phrase as if it is one word.

Try broader or narrow terms. Instead of weapons of mass destruction you may need to search for the broader term “biological weapons”. Instead of Native Americans, you may need to search for the narrower term of “Inuit.” It may depend on how much research has been done about this topic. It may also depend on which database you are using because each database has control of subject headings and some may or may not be searching within the full-text. 

Many databases permit certain punctuation to be used to search for multiple word endings. In most databases use the asterisk to truncate. In the Library Catalog use the question mark. Use the HELP page in each database for details.

Example: child*(in SmartSearch) will find child, children, child’s and other words with the root word “child.”

The words AND, OR and NOT can be used to create a complex search.

AND Example: acupressure AND “musculoskeletal system*” will find all database records with both search terms (and will also truncate to find system, systems, systemic, etc.).

Walking OR running will find all database records that have either walking or running. It’s like doing two searches at the same time. This is best for exact or very similar synonyms. This can also be used in conjunction with NESTING. The “nest” should be at the end of the search.

OR Example: stretching AND (walking OR running) will find all database records with the words stretching AND walking and also database records with the words stretching AND running.

The Boolean Operator NOT is helpful when there are lots of irrelevant results which include a word or phrase that can be eliminated from the search.

NOT Example: Political and legal topics provide a good example. Let's say you are interested in interpretations of the Patriot Act, but do not want government reports or congressional hearings. Since these are usually published by the United States Government, there is an easy way to eliminate MOST government publications in the Library Catalog.

NOT search example

  1. Go to advanced search in the Library Catalog
  2. Type "patriot act" and select keyword or subject from the drop down on the right
  3. Also, type NOT "united states" and select author from the drop down on the right
  4. Click search

This can also be read as "patriot act" (KW) NOT "united states" (AU). This will find all instances of "patriot act" that do not have "united states" in the author field in the library catalog.

Use Boolean Operators in this order for best results: AND, OR and NOT.

Learn background information and synonyms from reference sources. This is when Wikipedia is helpful, although you should also try the database Credo General Reference and the books listed below.

Create a list of synonyms. For example, try internment as well as "concentration camps" and also specific examples i.e. Auschwitz and Dachau.

Use quotation marks around phrases, i.e. "consumer behavior" or "electoral college."

Find multiple word endings. This is the asterisk in most library databases. For example child* will find child, childish, children, child's, etc.

Use "united states" not "america" or "USA."

Reviews are NOT helpful articles, unless you want to read someone's opinion about a book or movie they read or watched. Look at "types of articles" in the left column and use the check boxes to select the types of articles you want to include in the list of results. And then you still need to watch for the word "review" as a subject heading.

Acronyms are NOT usually useful search terms, although news articles are more apt to use acronyms than scholarly articles. For example, type "president of the United States" rather than POTUS.


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