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Ask A Librarian

Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE)

This guide provides students in the summer research programs with resources to complete their research.

Search strategies

Effective search strategies: appropriate search terms and refinements

Your search term strategy

  • Keep a list of important words to describe the research project you are working on
  • Add to your list based on terms you note while viewing your search results
  • Combine, mix, and recombine a variety of terms
  • Look up definitions, suitable search terms and nomenclature for your discipline (dictionary, glossary, thesaurus, taxonomy)
  • Use lateral reading, looking up unfamiliar words and concepts as you go

Appropriate search terms

  • Terminology or nomenclature (the systems of names in a particular field) can be very important
  • The same word in one discipline may have a different meaning in the context of another



class To remember the order of taxa in biology (Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species, [Variety]): "Dear King Philip Came Over For Good Soup" is often cited as a non-vulgar method for teaching students to memorize the taxonomic classification of system.
the rich and poor - economic class Social class encompasses both socioeconomic status (SES) and subjective social status (SSS). One objective of the Stop Skipping Class campaign is to provide best practices for measuring SES and SSS.
classroom There are four styles of classroom management: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and indulgent.
outclassed thesaurus The Mountaineers outclassed the Clemson Tigers.


Library databases

Find a suitable database

  • Go to Databases by Subject  [you can navigate there from the databases tab on the Library homepage]
  • Select the subject that broadly matches your research area
  • Browse the list of databases and read the descriptions to choose a potential good match
  • If you don’t find anything promising, go back to Databases by Subject and look for distinctions in subjects
    • for example, there are individual listings for Social Sciences, Social Work, and Sociology
  • Experiment! If you get stuck, use library chat to ask for a database recommendation at Ask-a-Librarian

Explore and analyze database functionality to improve results

  • Run a few searches related to your research to test out a database
  • Read the results to identify more terms to add to your search term list
  • Look up words that are new to you
  • Database attributes, scope, and functionality vary
    • Explore the advanced search options
    • Explore search refinement options available after the initial search
      • Can you sort the results by date? Relevancy? Number of times the work is cited?
  • NOTE
    • what search term combination got the best results
    • the type content you found
    • advanced search options, search refinement, and sorting options [Subject? Date? Author? Relevancy? etc.]
    • what worked to get relevant results


Manage results

  • Most databases allow you to cite, mark, email, save, print, export, preview, results
  • Many allow you to create a free account, create lists, save searches, and set up notifications when a new result for your search is added

Multiple Sources

  • Conduct searches in multiple sources
  • No one source has everything
  • Your research may overlaps subject areas

venn diagram overlapping search terms