Search Like a Pro

Here is a guide about how this guide was created and resources were located. This page will provide you with tips and techniques in your process of discovery.

The Information Request

The information request for this libguide was from a teacher of early American studies, who wanted activities and lessons that would engage and challenge the inquiry, problem-solving and critical thinking skills of students.

Further, the request was to focus on key events, such as the Revolutionary War, the Constitution and the Civil War.

When beginning a search, have a clear directive. Be clear about what you are looking for.

Determining Possible Search Terminology

After the request was made, the words, ideas and concepts in the request were pulled out.

  • engage
  • inquiry
  • problem-solving
  • critical thinking

What other terms might be similar to these keywords?

  • engage - interest, employ, engross, attract, involve
  • inquiry - question, search, quest, pursuit, investigation, exploration, query, scavenge, probe
  • problem - enigma, puzzle, issue, riddle
  • solve - explain, interpret, decipher, decode, resolve, decision
  • critical - judicious, accurate, analyze, decisive, crucial, decide
  • think - reflect, cognition, consider, deliberate, contemplate, speculate, ponder



Educational Jargon

Education, like many professions, has its own langauge. Determining the phrases and words of the profession is necessary and aids in searching. Heading to ERIC, provides possible phrases and word combinations. In the abstract and descriptors of articles, you can find potential search queries.

  • critical thinking = metacognitive skills
  • inquiry-based = discovery-learning
  • problem-based = case-based
  • student-engagment = active-learning
  • discussion-based = participatory-learning

It can be overwhelming and seem like an endless winding path. See where the path might take the search, continually refine, but if you get to far off the path, come on back before you invest too much time in a direction that may not be productive or relevant.

Working From A Well-Established Base

When the search begins, start with sources that are familiar and hopefully a source of reputable information.

Check out your public and school libraries. Start with a subject keyword search, for example, the request made for this libguide was key events in early, pre-modern American history.

Take a look at subject headings from the Library of Congress. Perform a subject keyword search with the following:

United States--History--Revolution. Library of Congress Catalog

  • There are 533 subject headings for the Revolution. Look at #6, there are 2107 titles for the Revolution.
  • Subject headings provide a more detailed look into large topics like the American Revolution.
  • Select a heading, from here you can choose a specific title and see the subject/content of the catalog record.
  • The subject listed on this record can provide you with more keywords, phrases and search possibilities.

If you find a good source, especially print, check the works cited and bibliography of the work for additional information for more sources.

Become familiar with people, organizations and institutions who hold the same interests and information needs as you.

Journals can also be useful by identifying authors who probably not only write for journals, but who also might have a blog, website or are part of a discussion panel or thread.

Boolean Operators

Using Boolean operators and advanced searches in search engines can also increase the effectiveness of your queries. The chart below, courtesy of 21st Century information Fluency, shows how you might enter a search string.

For this libguide process a sample boolean operator search might be inquiry-based+activity or lesson+american+history. Enter this into the standby google search. Check you results below. You can continually, refine, narrow or broaden based upon what you string together.

Check your results...

Google Web Search

Evaluating Sources Found

As we know, anything and everything can be found on the Web, the good, the bad and the ugly. The fact-checked and the factitious, the reputable and the repulsive. Time is precious in our hectic world. These libguide resources were chosen for a reason, their source. Look carefully for the origin of your resource. The majority of the links and materials are from organizations of known quality such as:

  • Public Broadcasting Service -
  • National Archives -
  • The Smithsonian -

Look for key additions to the url provided, .org, .gov, .edu, these are usually a good bet for quality materials.

This is not to say that high-quality materials cannot be found in the .com realm, but you do have to be more aware of evaluating the information and checking facts and sources.

Gathering Resources Together

As your information source grows, you need to stay organized. this is where good bookmarking software and programs come in handy. You can keep track of your bookmarks or favorites in folders, however these are usually tied to one computer. Social bookmarking sites might be a more useful manner of organizing.

The is web-based and moves with you. The resources for this libguide were tagged (labeled) with the tags libgude and km (the initial's of my client). From that point, I bundled all of the links and added a bundle link to the home page of the libguide. As I tag new resources with the same tags, the bundle is automatically updated.

In addition, you can also see who else has tagged the same webpage and then explore their tags. These can be goldmines of resources you have not come across yet or have not had time to look for.