Skip to Main Content

LIS2005 : Searching on the Web

Advanced Electronic Access to Information

Course Content: Searching the Web

Using Google Scholar

Not sure how to find academic articles on the web? Try Google Scholar! In our next module, we'll go over finding the best scholarly articles (for free) in our databases, but you can find great results through Googld Scholar as well. Watch an overview of Google Scholar here.

Google Scholar, Google Book Search and Open WorldCat

At the same time that Deep Web resources are increasing, Google has been working to improve access to these resources. Google has developed tools for locating the material, regardless of whether the sources are available in a proprietary database or not. Google Scholar and Google Book Search are examples of such tools.

The goal of Google Scholar is to provide a search platform specifically for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers, theses, preprints, abstracts and technical reports from all broad areas of research. Unfortunately, most of the results displayed are for proprietary Deep Web information that is not available for free online. These include books and journal articles that may be located in your school library or can be obtained for you through Interlibrary Loan. Items that are available online will have their title hyperlinked to that page. These results can also be found through a traditional Google search.

Google Book Search is a platform for searching, retrieving book excerpts or entire contents of books (depending on copyright and proprietary factors), and linking to sources for purchasing or borrowing books. Various libraries and publishers collaborate with Google in an effort to broaden the base of books available on the Web.

Google Book Search harvests records from the Open Worldcat Project often providing links to the libraries that lend the books. Worldcat is a proprietary database that contains book records and links to associated library catalogs. Web researchers log into Worldcat through their local library, find books and make an online request for materials to be delivered to their local library. Worldcat was a Deep Web resource available to a limited number of people, but the Open Worldcat Project has made this resource available to the world. A Worldcat search yields a list of books and, for each book, a list of the lending libraries closest to the searcher's zip code.


Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License

Copyright © 1997-2009 Florida Community College, Learning Resources Standing Committee. Last revised May 2009 by the LIS 2004 Course Revision Committee.


Creating Search Statements

Creating Search Statements--Identifying Keywords

The next step is to create a search statement, also called a search string, which you will use to search for appropriate resources. First, identify the main concepts or keywords in your preliminary thesis.

By creating a list of keywords, you can increase your search capacity. This enables you to find more information on your topic. Try to think of all the ways your topic could be described. For example, if you are doing acid rain, you might also use words like pollution, air pollution, carbon dioxide levels, ozone depletion, etc...

Choose your keywords carefully. Do not use a complete sentence or phrase as you do in spoken natural language. Leave out minor words, such as articles ("a", "an", or "the"), and prepositional or verb phrases ("on...", "in...", or "going to"). Stick to the keywords, usually nouns or noun phrases that express the major concepts of your thesis.

For the thesis, "College students who are binge drinkers are more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior than students who are either moderate drinkers or who abstain", you might choose the nouns and noun phrases alcohol, alcoholic beverages, binge drinking, risk-taking behavior and college students as keywords. For the thesis, "The implementation of V-chip technology to block violent or sexually explicit television content will lessen the incidences of school violence", you could use television, TV, V chip, school violence andchildren.

As you begin your search, you should write down all your search terms so you can decide which were effective and which were not. You may find terms you wish to eliminate from your results list or terms you want to always appear in your results.

To identify alternative keywords, use a thesaurus (Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus is available online), check the Library of Congress Subject Headings, a reference book available in most libraries, or try browsing or searching several of the web subject directories listed in Lesson 4. The subject directories may provide alternate keywords or related topics that you wouldn't necessarily think of on your own.


Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License

Copyright © 1997-2012 Florida Community College, Learning Resources Standing Committee. Last revised August 2012 by the LIS 2004 Course Revision Committee.

Refining Search Statements

Refining Search Statements

The next step in developing your search statement is to refine your keyword search string. This may help to narrow or direct your search so that you retrieve the most relevant results. When results are relevant, they are on target or very close to the information being sought. Complex search statements could be refined by adding words and characters such as Boolean operators, quotation marks to indicate exact phrases, truncation symbols, or field search limiters.

Boolean Searching

Boolean searching is based on a system of symbolic logic developed by George Boole, a 19th century English mathematician. Most computer databases and Internet search engines support Boolean searches. Boolean search techniques help reduce the number of irrelevant documents in the search results.

The power of Boolean searching is based on combinations of keywords with connecting terms called Boolean operators. The three basic operators are the terms ANDOR, and NOT. Many Internet search engines replace Boolean operators with symbols, for example+ for AND, - for NOT.



The examples above illustrate general topics expressed with just two keywords. Actual search strings, which express complex topic ideas, may consist of several keywords and combinations of Boolean operators.

For example, the thesis statement "Automobile air bags are not safe for children" might result in the search string: 

  • automobiles AND air bags AND children AND safety

Most databases and major search engines support complex Boolean searches. If you have a complex search using more than one operator, you can nest your search terms, using parentheses. Search terms and operators included in parentheses will be searched first, then terms and operators outside the parentheses. A search for:

 (ADD OR attention deficit disorder) AND college students

will search for documents containing either the acronym ADD or the words attention deficit disorder, then narrow the search results only to those documents that also contain the words college students.

 These concepts are further illustrated in the Advanced Boolean Searching tutorial by Colorado State University libraries.

Phrase Searching

Pay attention to phrases in search strings. If you are looking for information on the capital gains tax, you need to enter that part of your search string as a phrase. Otherwise, you may retrieve irrelevant documents which contain all of the keywords, in any order, anywhere in the document. Most search engines and databases support phrase searches. Internet search engines usually require quotation marks to indicate phrases such as: "capital gains tax", "physician assisted suicide", "human genome project".


Another useful search parameter is truncation. Truncation allows the searcher to insert a truncation symbol, usually an * or ?, as a wildcard at the end or the middle of a word. For example, the search term teen* will locate the terms

  1. teen
  2. teens
  3. teenager
  4. teenagers
  5. teenaged
  6. teensy
  7. teeny

 Try not to use truncation on a very short root word as too many words would be retrieved, and the relevance of the search would be affected. Some search engines automatically truncate your search terms to find plural, -ing, or -ed endings. Truncation symbols will vary. Some search engines and databases do not support truncation.

The concept of truncation is further illustrated in this tutorial by Colorado State University libraries.

Field Searching

Field searching is a technique which allows you to search a particular part of a computer record. For example, in many search engines and electronic databases, you can specify that a specific word in your search string be found in the title of the document.

 You may also be able to search for an author's last name, a range of dates, full-text documents, or material in a particular language. In web search engines, you may be able to search by domain name, URL, or type of file (picture, sound or video). This search technique works efficiently when you need to narrow your search in a very specific way. Some web search engines make field searching available only in the advanced search mode.




Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 License

Copyright © 1997-2012 Florida Community College, Learning Resources Standing Committee. Last revised August 2012 by the LIS 2004 Course Revision Committee.

Free Web Sources Assignment

Find a source on the free web (open internet) that answers each of the questions below. Provide a link to the website and evaluate the sources based on credibilityauthoritycurrencyrelevance, and bias in 3-5 sentences. Email your answers to

Do not use Wikipedia for this assignment. 

  • Information about flu shots
  • Timeline of the Kennedy assassination
  • Review of the new iPhone
  • Information on a recent (within the past year) Surpreme Court ruling