Finding Sources

Creating a Search Strategy

Once you’ve decided on a topic for your project, it’s time to create a search strategy. Make a list of keywords that relate to your subject. Think about synonyms and other ways to phrase your topic. The specific words you search for matter. The most effective terms in one database may not be as effective in another database.

This part can be challenging if you don’t know much about your topic yet. If you’re having trouble thinking of words or phrases related to your topic, try doing some basic background research.

Choosing Databases

Once you have a topic and a strategy, you need to decide where to search for information. There are three types of tools that you may find useful.

The Library Search
Use this to find books, articles, movies, music, scores. Also useful if you already know the specific item you’re looking for.
General Databases
Great for finding peer-reviewed articles on a topic. Especially useful for multidisciplinary topics.
Subject Databases
These databases cover a single academic discipline.

General Databases

These are databases that contain articles from many different subject areas. They’re especially useful for cases where your topic doesn't fall neatly within a single discipline. Even if your topic doesn’t seem multidisciplinary, searching a general database may reveal articles from unexpected sources. Some good general databases are:

Discipline-specific Databases

These are databases that contain only works in a particular (usually broad) subject area. The library offers dozens of discipline-specific databases. In certain fields, you will need to use one of these databases to find the best sources. PubMed, for instance, is a must-search for medical topic as is SciFinder for chemistry.

If you’re not sure which to use, see our Subject Guides for suggestions or ask your instructor.