ENGL 101 English Composition 1

How to Find Sources with Keywords & Subject Terms

Finding Books in the Library

Use the link to the catalog below to search for books. And notice the instructions below on how to locate the books, either online, or physically in the library.

So you've looked up a book in the library's catalog, but now what? How do you find it? 

Here's what you need to know. After searching in the library's catalog, you will see a results page like the one in the image below. Under the title of the book, you'll see more information.

More specifically...

  • You'll see a location and call number like this: Available at Holman Library Main Collection 363.738 C639 2011
  • ‚ÄčJust write down this location and number. It's the Call number or address for the book on the shelves


  • If the book is an online, or ebook, you'll see a link to "view online"
    • Just click the link and sign in with your student info, if prompted, and you'll be taken to the ebook in a database

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screenshot of the catalog search, showing where to look for the call number to locate print books

Each shelf in the library has a set of call numbers so you can take the number you wrote down from the catalog and use it to locate the print book. Stop by the reference desk and get help from a librarian; we're happy to help you find books in the library! 

Picking the Right Book

To help you select a book from the results list, click on a title to learn more about a book. Look for the following:

  • Date published: Is it current enough? For example, books on global warming from the 1990s are not current enough!

  • Description and/or Contents: This section indicates what a book is about, which helps you determine if the book is relevant. Often you can even see the chapters listed out, which can also tell you more about the book's contents. You can also tell if the book is a collection of essays. Essays may be useful for short writing assignments.

  • Subjects: Are the Subjects of the book on your topic? These subjects are how the catalog organizes and searches for content. Trying clicking on a relevant one to find other possibly useful titles!

  • Availability: If the book is in print, is it available? If you are taking an online class, is this an e-book? Look at the information on the record to learn more. 

Searching Library Databases for Articles

Walk through the two steps below to learn how to search a database and select appropriate articles.

This search is for Academic Search Complete, but you will use many of the same techniques for other databases. 

Pleas note that the library One Search  searches in all library databases at once. That can be handy, but it may also return too many sources that are not relevant. Additionally, individual databases provide more helpful research tools, particularly for identifying useful subject terms.

Step 1:

Select a Database (sample: Academic Search Complete) and Type in Search Terms
  • Use the "Advanced Search" to give you more control when you search.

  • Brainstorm different keywords that could address the same concept:

climate change / global warming / greenhouse effect / polar icecaps / sea levels

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search boxes in academic search complete database  

  • Using AND between your search terms helps you to refine your search.  In the above example, we want to find articles about climate change and the government policies that address it.

  • If you receive too few results, try removing narrowing terms or selecting new ones from your topic brainstorm list.

And if you need to access articles immediately, be sure to check the box to limit to "Full Text." Then required, you can also limit the results to show only articles from journals that use the peer-review process.

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limit to full text and/or scholarly peer reviewed if needed

Step 2:

Select Articles

After you click on "Search", view your results.  This example shows #3 of 244 results found with this search combination.  244 is a good set of results for this search - not too big, not too small. 

  • Too large a number (1,000s) usually indicates that your search is not narrow enough, e.g.: "climate change".
  • Too few?  Your search terms might be too specific: "climate change" AND "government policy" AND "mangos".

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results of search

In the image above, you can see one of the search results from our search for "Climate change" AND "Government policy" Notice that you can access the PDF on the results page, or you can click on the title to access the PDF and get more info about the article. 

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results of the search

Notice that the results also tell you what kind of publication it is, how long it is, where it is from, and like most databases, you will be given the chance to read the abstract, get a citation, and email yourself the articles.

Browsing with One Search

Use One Search to find Books in Holman Library and for an overview of library resources on a subject.

  • Build your search slowly with multiple search terms. 
  • When relevant, use quotation marks to keep words together, as a phrase. Example: "affordable housing"

Note: Go to individual databases for magazines, more subject terms, up-to-date streaming video content, and more.

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advanced search boxes

When you see results, you may need to limit further. As shown in the image below...

  • use the limiters on the left to filter your results by source type, subject, date, language, and more.

(click on image to enlarge)

Affordable housing-results-list-primo

Effective Database Searching with Keywords

Keywords and Effective Search Strategies

This video shows you how to use your keywords in library databases to find book, articles, videos, and more. 

Source: "Searching Databases with Keywords" by lehmanlibrary , is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.