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Beeghly Library Research Guide

How to Search

You know where to search. Now you will learn techniques that allow you to use those search tools so that they will give you the best sources for your research. You will be looking at examples in EBSCO Discovery Service, though these techniques work in any of the catalogs and databases.

Search Skills

Search Operators

Search operators allow you to control how EDS understands your topic. To research the concept of body image, you could just go to the EDS search bar on the library homepage and type in 'body image.' Go ahead and do that and hit ‘Search.’

Search in EDS for 'body image'

At the time this search was done, it brought back 437,145 results. That’s too many results to look through, and quite a few may not actually be on the concept of body image. In order to tweak the search to get better results, you are going to use search operators.

The first operator we are going to use is quotation marks (“ ”). Quotation marks added around a group of words tells EDS, as well as other library search tools and Google, to only bring back results if those words are in them exactly as you wrote them. Go to the top of your search results, add quotation marks around “body image,” and hit ‘Search’ again.

Adjusted search in EDS search bar: "body image," with words in quotation marks

By changing your search to “body image,” you have removed any results that have the words “body” and “image” somewhere but do not have those words next to each other. Now you have narrowed the results down to 157,068, throwing out nearly 300,000 sources.

Since your results are still rather high, you will want to narrow your search within “body image.” You decide that you are interested in how the media affects people’s body image. There are now two key concepts to your search: body image and media. You need to tell EDS to look for sources with both of those concepts, and we do that with the search operator ‘and’ (sometimes AND).

Add ‘and media’ after “body image” in your search.

Adjusted search: "body image" and media

Now you have 12,532. However, after your last search you realize that instead of ‘media’ you could have used the word ‘marketing,’ which is a related concept. To add related concepts to a search, you use the final search operator, ‘or’ (sometimes OR). Add ‘or marketing’ after ‘media’ and then cluster the related concepts together in parentheses.

Adjusted search: "body image" and (media or marketing)

The results are now at 14,113. They have been expanded to not just include sources about body image and media but also body image and marketing.

Your search can keep expanding like this, with new concepts added with ‘and’ and synonyms and related concepts added with ‘or.’ If you decide you are particularly interested in how the media affects the body image of women, you could end up with a search such as this:

“body image” and (media or marketing) and (women or girls or gender)


While search operators controlled what your results were about, filters control what types of sources you find in those results. EDS offers a number of filtering options in the column left of the search results. The databases and catalogs also have filtering options, though they may be located in different places, such as a right column or at the top of the page.

Begin with this search in EDS: "body image" and (media or marketing)

In the left column, there will be a heading that says "Limit to." Check the third box under it, "Available in Library Collection."

First, bring up the search used above on body image and media/marketing, which brought up 14,113 results when this search was run.

Something you may not be aware of if you have not used library search tools before is they include both sources we have in the library and citations for sources we do not have. If you want to narrow down the results to only what we have in the library when starting your research, go to the left column under ‘Limit To’ and check the box that says, ‘Available in Library Collection.’

It should automatically refresh the page with results for sources we do not have removed. Your total results are down to 11,359.

You can narrow your results even more by when they were published. Right now, your results include sources going all 6Immediately below "Available in Library Collection" is a tool that says Publication Date. Change the first box to 2005 and hit enter.the way back to 1971. Many of these sources are likely out of date, and you will want to remove them using the publication date filter under ‘Limit To.’

The question of how far back to search is a tricky one, since some subjects, such as health sciences, prioritize recent information much more than others, such as philosophy. In this case, change the starting date to 2006, ten years back, and then hit enter. Now you have 8,647 results, all relatively recent.

Further down the left column is a heading that says "Source Types." Check News and MagazinesFinally, you can filter down to the types of sources you want to use. Almost every library search tool will include more than one type of source, and if you are only looking for scholarly articles, it would be nice to not have to wade through the books, news articles, and everything else.

Below the ‘Limit To’ box in the left column is one that says ‘Source Types.’ It will list the most common source types in your results. Check the box next to the types of sources you want, such as News and Magazines. The page should automatically refresh with only those source types in your results. Alternatively, you can click the ‘Show More’ link to bring up a full list of source types and select from there.