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SPC 120: Research Tutorial

Find great resources in
5 easy steps!

Discovery Search

1. Getting Started

Let's say you want to give a speech about helping veterans dealing with PTSD. What do you search for?  

Start with word(s) you think will result in finding information, just as you do with Google. However, keep it simple.

Let's try PTSD for starters.

When you see the results, you will often find a "research starter." These are often expert-written articles to give you a quick overview on your topic. This article on post-traumatic stress disorder is from Magill's Medical Guide.

Read this article to learn more about PTSD. Write down ideas and terminology you might use to explore your topic in your searches.

At the top of the search results, you will often find a "research starter"

2: Test Your Search Terms

example of search result

  • Every article, such as the one above, is tagged with the subjects found in the article.
  • You can test your search terms against these subjects. If you find your search terms in bold, you are off to a good start.
  • Can't finding your search terms? Find an article close to your needs and look at the listed subjects. Try using those words in your search. Also look for terms that repeat.
  • In this case we're seeing "post-traumatic stress disorder" -- PTSD spelled out. Use these words to improve your search.

3: Narrow your results

screenshot of left column search limiters

Use the left column tools to narrow your search results

  • Available Print + Online: Limits your results to materials you can access immediately, .
  • Library Catalog: This searches items physically located in our MCCC libraries.
  • Publication Date: Limits your results to newer (or older) items. Enter the year in one of the boxes then hit enter (or move the levers) to change the dates.
  • Source Type: Limit your results specifically to books, magazines, academic journals, and more. 

This last one is really important. As you recall from the World of Information page, each source type has its own strengths. 

See this in action

Here is a sample search for magazine articles published since 2010. (30 seconds, no sound)

4: Focus your results using subjects & "and" searching

subject limiters listing veterans Click on the Subject heading in the left column. You can now see a list of the most common subject tags from your results (example at right). Clicking one of these subjects allows you to quickly zoom in on your topic. 

Click on veterans and you'll narrow your results to 128 articles about veterans that are within your results.

‚Äč(Tip: Click the Show More to see a list of the top 50 subjects from your search.)

Use And in your search

You'll see multiple search boxes with the word AND next to them in the drop-down menu.

Enter Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the top box and Veterans in the second box. 

This gives you a search of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder AND Veterans

You will instantly see all the results that are in common between two search terms (like the Venn diagram below). 

Tip: If you use all three search boxes, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder AND Veterans AND Treatment, you narrow your search even further like the diagram below.

Tip 2: You don't have to wait until you see the multiple search boxes. You can also simply type the word AND in the single search box (such as the one at the top of this page.)

5: Email and get citations

Click on the title of the item you are interested in reading. 

In the right column, you will see several Tools. 

Click the Email tool and the options for receiving a copy of the item and a citation.

In the dialog box (pictured below), you'll see the Subject line. This is a great place to put your course number and the words you used to find the article.

In the Citation Format drop-down menu, you can then choose your MLA citation.

The email will include the citation in the body of the email and a PDF of the article is usually attached.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I search for an exact phrase only?

Enclose your phrase in double quotation marks. For example, type "economic development"

Is there a wildcard I can use in the search?

The wildcard character (also called truncation) is an asterisk (*).  For example, type nurs* to find the words nurse or nursing.

How do I find Academic or Peer Reviewed journals?

On the search results screen select Peer Reviewed and/or Academic Journals from the Refine Results list on the left hand side of your screen

How do I cite a book or journal article I find?

Click on the title in the results list.  Click on the Cite tool on the right hand side of your screen.  Select the relevant citation style from the list.

How can I search for a title?

Select Advanced Search and enter the title in the search box.  Select Title from the Select a Field drop down menu.

Why is my search not retrieving any results?

  • If you are searching for a specific resource check that you have entered the title correctly
  • Your search may be too complex - simplify your search by entering 2 or 3 important keywords in the search box
  • Check that limiters from previous searches have been cleared
  • Try removing any punctuation and/or symbols from the search