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Library Research - learn how to find information on any topic

Walks you through how to choose a topic, identify keywords, develop a search strategy, evaluate your materials and document your findings.

Database Search Tips

Use Boolean Logic (AND, OR, NOT) to combine search concepts.


TOO FEW hits: OR to add synonyms; individual key words, NOT whole phrases; drop concept(s) with AND; truncate; consider other databases.


TOO MANY hits:  AND another concept into search; use other available limiters in the database.


Truncation symbols (?, *, !, +) will provide variant spelling after the root word. 


A wildcard (?, *) is a character that may be used in a search term to represent one or more other characters.

Do an advanced search and take advantage of the fields provided.

Use the subject headings/descriptors to find additional citations on your topic.  If that does not work, use the keyword search.

You can also use limits (e.g., publication year, language, words in the title, etc.) to narrow your retrieval. 
Set up an auto alert/RSS feed to monitor the research.  

Managing Your Research

  • Start your research early.
  • Take and keep accurate notes of the sources you use.  Distinguish between your ideas and other’s ideas and direct quotes.
  • Document your sources immediately.  As you gather sources during your research, make sure to record all the information you need to cite your sources accurately and completely (e.g., authors, titles, URL addresses, etc.).  Check with your instructor to see what citation style you will be using (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago)
  • Books:  When using the library catalog to find books, print out the catalog records of any books you may use for your paper.  Catalog records provide brief information on books including the author/s, title, publisher, and publication date.  You can also photocopy the title and copyright pages from any book you use for your paper.  Note the page numbers you need to cite.
  • Journal, Magazine, & Newspaper Articles:  Keep an online or paper copy of the articles you will use for your paper.  If you use an article from a library database, you will need to include the database information in your citation.  The information you need to include from the database will depend on the format style specified by your instructor.  Many library databases have a citation tool that automatically generates a citation in the format you specify.  These citation tools are a good starting point for formatting your references but you may still need to “tweak” them according to your instructor’s specifications. 
  • Web Sites:  Keep an online or paper copy of the web pages you use for your paper.  Make sure to record the URL address of the exact page on the web site that is used.

Interlibrary Loan Request for Articles

If you need an article to which Spiva Library does not have full-text access, we can request a copy from another library using a service called InterLibrary Loan.

This service is available to all MSSU students, faculty, alumni, staff and community card holders.

InterLibrary Loan Policy

*a nominal service fee may
apply in some cases*

Organize your Search with this Document

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