COMM 1130 - Public Speaking

Search tips

A quick word about search engines (i.e. Google) vs. library databases

The search box makes it seem like library databases and commercial search engines are the same, but the underlying structure is different.

Google and it's brethren are easy-going, they'll take what you give them and return something fairly relevant.

Library databases (the library catalog, or a database like Communication and Mass Media Complete, etc.) are picky.  They want you to be brief and choose your search terms carefully.  

General advice for searching library resources

  • Keep it simple - limit your first searches to two or three keywords.
  • Separate concepts go in separate boxes (if there are multiple search boxes).
  • Try variations of your search terms, i.e., drug abuse, drug use, substance abuse, addiction, illegal drugs.
  • Use Boolean operators: AND (narrows search, joins different concepts) OR (broadens search, joins similar concepts)
  • Use the built in limiters - select language or date published (or a range). You can even limit to peer-reviewed articles or other formats like dvds or ebooks.

Tips for specific resources

  • Academic Search Complete  
    • Create an EBSCOhost account to save your articles online.
    • Search multiple databases at once! Click on the "Choose Databases" link at the top of the page.
  • Library Catalog
    • Use the limiters in the "Refine Your Search" column to make your search more specific. 
    • When in doubt, click for more information! Sometimes it will look like we don't have an item, but we actually do. Click on the title to view the most information.


1. If you aren't finding anything, or only one or two things that don't really seem quite right:

  • Talk with your professor or ask a librarian, you might need to rethink your topic.
  • Reexamine your search terms:
    • Try out some synonyms or related terms.
    • Use fewer search terms (adding search terms will only make it worse).
    • "zoom out" or broaden your search (instead of Albuquerque, try "New Mexico" or Southwest)
  • Make sure you are searching in the right places - see the recommended resources in this guide.

2. If you've found a few GREAT articles or books (good on you!), but you need more:

  • Check the Works Cited (aka Bibliography or Reference List) from the great sources that you've already located.  

Citation help

OWL Purdue: APA style guide

Citing articles in EBSCO databases: From the article's abstract page, use the Cite icon (on the right) to generate an APA style citation.

Quick Help

If you've been researching for 15 minutes, and you haven't had any luck, we recommend using one of these methods for getting some quick help.  Tell them 1) what you'd like to find and 2) what you've already tried. They'll be able to help you with next steps.  Use this option if you run into anything weird -- like you can't access a database or article you think you should be able to or if you have questions about your account. You can also check out Research Byte #11: Getting Research Help.