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Searching Tips and Tricks
- Most databases allow for searching with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).
- Use AND to focus your search and combine different aspects of your topic
- Use OR to broaden your search and find sources that use different words for the same concept.
- Use NOT to omit certain terms from your results.
- Use an asterisk (*) to truncate words if you want to search for all words with that root. For example, “environment*” would search for environment, environmental, environmentalism, etc.
- Put quotes around a phrase that you want the database to search as a phrase, rather than as individual words.
- Group synonyms inside parentheses using OR between each one
URSUS is the combined library catalog for the entire University of Maine system. You can search the entire system, or select University of Southern Maine Libraries in the drop-down.
Other helpful tips:
- If you find a book that is relevant to your needs, look at the "Subject" area of the book's record. Click on a few of the subjects to find other similar books.
- In many of the book records, you can look at the table of contents - click the link under the "Inside This Book" heading. This can help you determine if a book is right for your research.
- If USM doesn't have a book you want, click the "Request" button at the top of the page and we can get it for you through interlibrary loan.
Most databases, as well as URSUS and MaineCat, assign subjects to books and articles. A subject is a designated word or phrase that describes an idea or concept and groups all articles or books about that concept together.
- Subjects are also variously called descriptors, controlled vocabulary, headings, or index terms.
- To search by subject you have to know the exact subject term. Most databases that use subjects have a Thesaurus that you can use to look up subject terms. You can also do a keyword search, find a book or article that is relevant to your research, and look at the subject terms assigned to it.
- URSUS and MaineCat use Library of Congress Subject Headings and each database has their own list of subject headings, so you have to look up subjects in each database independently.
Comparing Scholarly, Trade, & Popular Articles
Finding an Article from a Reference
Confused by Article Linker?
Looking for the full-text of an article, but only seeing one of these icons? View this video for tips on how to find your article!
This is a great resource for sampling literature reviews.