1. Conduct an initial search to get keyword ideas.
- Identify the most important parts of your topic/research question (2-4 words/phrases).
- Go to the Saint Mary’s Libraries’ homepage: lib.smumn.edu
- Select Advanced Search (below the search box).
- Log in with your regular Saint Mary's username and password. Hint: Your username is your Saint Mary's email address but without the @smumn.edu part.
- Type each of the important parts of your topic into a different search box. If you need an additional search box, select the + button. You may not need all 3 search boxes.
- Select Search.
2. Identify additional keywords.
- What other terms can you use to describe these same concepts? Brainstorm words/phrases related to each word in your search.
- Skim through titles and subjects on the first page of your search results. Are there are other terms that professionals are using to describe the same concepts?
- In the search boxes, add your new terms. Write down similar terms or ideas next to each other, with OR between them. Example:
social support OR social relationships OR friendship
quality of life OR wellbeing
elderly OR older OR geriatric
dementia OR Alzheimer’s OR memory loss
3. Put quotation marks around phrases, and shorten words with multiple endings.
- Place quotation marks around phrases. For example, “social support” will find sources with the phrase social support, together and in that order, rather than sources with social and support in separate places.
- Shorten (or "truncate") words with an asterisk * to find words with multiple possible endings (e.g., elder* will find elderly, elders, and elder).
“social support” OR “social relationships” OR friendship
“quality of life” OR wellbeing
elder* OR older OR geriatric
dementia OR Alzheimer’s OR “memory loss”
4. Search with your updated keywords.
Click Search again once you’ve added your additional terms. Your search boxes should look something like this:
5. Narrow your results to peer-reviewed articles from the past 10 years.
- Check the Peer-Reviewed Articles box on the left side to narrow your results just to peer-reviewed articles.
- Use the date filter on the left side to narrow your results to the past 10 years.
6. Refine your search results.
Narrow or broaden your search to find the most relevant results on your topic. Your goal is to have between 50 and 1,000 search results.
More than 1,000 results?
Your topic might be too broad. Try these methods to narrow your results:
- Delete out any keywords that seem to bring back irrelevant results.
- Include another component in your topic to make it more specific, and add a new row of related keywords to your search. You can focus in on a specific population of people, location, or timeframe. Here are some ideas:
- Age group
- Sexual orientation
- Medical condition
Fewer than 50 results?
Your topic might be too specific. Try these methods to broaden your results:
- Brainstorm additional keywords for each part of your topic, and add them to each row. Make sure to add OR in between!
- Examine one of your topics from a more general level. For example, instead of employee vacation time, try employee benefits.
- Delete one row of keywords (in other words, one part of your topic) to make your topic less specific.
7. Identify 4 relevant articles on your topic.
Scan the first few pages of your SuperSearch search results. Hover over the magnifying glass icon next to an article's title to read the summary (abstract). Can you find 4 articles that seem to address each aspect of your topic?
You'll save these articles in the next step in this guide.