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International Business Research

Basic Search Tips

Search Effectively  Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. You will need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - the KEYWORDS.

Example Topic: 

  • Have fair trade practices had any impact on the coffee industry?

Keywords: 

  • fair trade
  • coffee

Remember! When searching databases, you only need to include the most essential components.

 

Brainstorm: Person writing on colored sticky notesMost words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym or another very similar keyword. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!

Example 1: 

Keyword: growers

Possible synonyms: farmers, small farms, smallholder

Example 2:

Keyword: fair trade

Possible synonyms: fairtrade, sustainable agriculture

Keep an Eye Out!

Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.

Focus: Person holding a magnifying lensMost library databases have search tools built in.

Try some of these:

  • Subject: 
    Think of subjects as official hashtags. Use them to find sources about that subject.
  • Date Range: 
    Limit your search to sources published between specific years.
  • Peer Reviewed: 
    Limit your search to scholarly journal articles.
  • Full Text: 
    Make sure all of the results are available to read in full.

Look on the left and right of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools - and more!

Advanced Search Tips

Boolean Venn Diagram: fair trade AND coffeeUse AND

Use the operator AND to find only sources that mention your keywords:

  • fair trade AND coffee

Add Keywords

Add more keywords in order to focus the results even more:

  • fair trade AND coffee  AND growers

Boolean Venn Diagram: growers OR farmersUse OR

Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords:

  • growers OR farmers

This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.

Combine OR and AND

A great way to use OR, is to combine it with AND. So, to expand your search results, you could try this:

  • fair trade AND coffee AND (growers OR farmers

When you do this, put parentheses around the keywords connected with OR. Now you will have a list of results that all mention fair trade, coffee, and either growers or farmers.

Choices IconIf your search results are not what you expect, there are several options you can try.

Use Quotation Marks

If your results don't seem to match up with your keywords, try putting quote marks around exact phrases. This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.

"fair trade" AND coffee

Check Your Spelling

It's always a good idea to make sure that your search terms are spelled correctly. You may also need to try using a different form of a word

Ask a Librarian!

Sometimes you just need to ask for help. Some research topics are more tricky than others and getting help from a librarian can save you a lot of time.