Skip to main content

Evaluating Resources: Search Tips

Search Tips

Where you search will also determine the quality of your resources. Always start your search at Explore which will contain all library holdings and databases.  Keep in mind that library holdings will have gone through a type of selection for inclusion which does not mean that everything in the library will pass the CRAAP test, but it is a step toward finding quality resources.

Peer reviewed

You can take another step further when searching by limiting your searches in Explore or databases to 'peer reviewed' or 'scholarly journals'. By doing this, you will only be searching those journals that have been reviewed and assessed by academic experts. Again, you can not rely on this refinement to on over authoritative sources so may also want to modify your search terms to limit your results.

The type of search you use is another way to help you find the most relevant information. When you start searching, you usually have the choice between a Simple and Advanced Search.

Simple Search

A simple search works best with less used words or phrases, like heutagogy.

Broad terms like education or teaching will return thousands of results, many of which will not be relevant to your search.

Advanced Search

Many search engines and databases offer advanced searching that gives you greater flexibility. What options are available and the special symbols used will vary, so you'll always want to start at the HelpHints, or Tips screen.

Some of the most common advanced search techniques are:

  • Narrow or broaden your search using the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT
  • Search for a specific phrase using speech marks ("history of education")
  • Search for variations of a word (culture, cultural) using * (cultur*)
  • You can limit where your search terms are found (only in the title of the page) to increase the likelihood of their relevance

Searching Website Domains

 

Check out the URL (address) to assess the authority of a source. One part of the URL indicates the type of domain:

  • .ac - higher education college or university
  • .gov - government agency or organization
  • .com - commercial organization
  • .net - network provider
  • .org - non-profit organization
  • .int - international

The origin of a web page can help you evaluate the legitimacy of a page. Generally, you expect accurate information to be found at domains with .gov or .ac and you can limit your searches to specific domains. For example, the search below will be limited to higher education or university sites in the United Kingdom:

heutagogy site:ac.uk

However, be aware that this type of search is not necessarily foolproof. Not everything with .gov or .ac  in the URL will pass the CRAAP test.