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FYS: Fairy Tale, Self, and Society (Jorgensen): Search Tips

Course Guide for Fairy Tale, Self, and Society FYS course

#1 Finding Good Search Terms

  • Use terms found in your background reading on the subject (reference sources example)
  • Ask other people in the field for terms used to describe your topic 
  • When you find a record for an item that is useful to you, look at its subject headings or descriptors for more ideas (example)
  • Use the Thesaurus or Subject Terms listings, if available, in the databases you are searching (in this example, click on Subject Terms in the upper left of the menu bar)Subject Terms link highlighted

Here are some subject terms that might be helpful in your searches (they are linked to results lists in WorldCat Discovery):   Fairy tales History and criticism. Fairy tales in motion pictures. Fairy tales in literature. Fairy tales Social aspects. Fairy tales--Psychological aspects.  You may also want to try a search for "fairy tales" along with terms such as: identity, self-realization, self-acceptance, culture, or socialization.  There are many more options, though, depending on your topic.

#2 Using Your Search Terms

If your search terms are more than single worlds, use quotation marks to show that you want the terms to be found together. The search will look for exactly what you place in the quotation marks, so be sure there are no mistakes.

Search for Adam Smith = 38,700,000 results

Search for "Adam Smith" = 2,730,000 results

Search for theory of relativity = 3,430,000 results

Search for "theory of relativity" = 856,000 results

Venn diagram highlighting the area of overlap between the two circles.

Combining search terms with AND will:

  • Reduce the number of results
  • Make the search focus more specifically on your topic

Search for "college student"  = 1.2 billion results 

Search for politics = 296 million resultsAdvanced search examples show how to select AND to connect multiple search terms

Search for "college student" AND politics = 43 million results more focused on your topic

Search for "college student" AND politics AND "2008 election" = 543,000 more relevant results

Combining search terms with OR will:

  • Expand your search and increase number of results
  • Give your search flexibility to find alternate terms

Search for film  = 601,786 resultsEBSCO search for movie or film

Search for movie = 199,781 results 

Search for film OR movie  = 642,906 results that mention either film or movie, or both

Search for "middle school" = 21,401 results that mention "middle school"EBSCO search for "middle school" or "junior high"

Search for "junior high" = 7,261 results

Search for "middle school" OR "junior high" = 28,177 results that mention either "middle school" or "junior high", or both

Combining search terms with NOT will:

  • Decrease your search results
  • Increase the relevancy of your results by telling the search to exclude certain terms

Search for "Hunger Games"  = 745 results Demonstrates the advanced search "Not" feature of EBSCO

Search for "Hunger Games" NOT movie = 487 results 


Search for cloning = 42,736 resultsBasic EBSCO search bar: cloning NOT human

Search for cloning NOT human = 30,325 results

Truncation is a way of giving your search tool flexibility to find alternate endings for your search term.

Why it's helpful:  Search engines match your terms to results; they will not find an alternate version of your term. Truncation tells the search to match the root of your term and gives it freedom to find whatever endings it can.

Truncation symbols include question mark, number sign, asterisk, and exclamation point.


  • Gene! will bring back gene, genes, genetic, genetics, genetically, general, generally, etc
  • Liv* will bring back results for live, lives, lively, livelihood, liver, livery, etc
  • Child$ will bring back child, children, childhood, etc

How to do it:  Shorten your search term to its base or root form. Then add a truncation symbol to the end of your term. Note: truncation symbols vary by search tool.

Truncation Symbols by adstarkel. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

#3 Using Search Tool Features

Often, these features are easiest to use (or only available in) the Advanced Search option. (example)

  • Try searching by Subject, rather than by Keyword (or by a combination of Subjects and Keywords or other fields) - usually with Advanced Search
  • Try searching only the Abstract, or even the Title field, rather than the whole item 
  • Use other limiters, if appropriate, such as only a specific type of publication (Peer Reviewed, for example) or only a specific time period Advanced Search Screen example    

Most search tools have ways to limit the results list and the options are often on the left side of the results page.  Limiters usually include date ranges, topics, languages, authors, and formats.

limiters showing on left side of results page


#4 Using Leads and Clues

  • Look at the bibliographies of items that are closely related to your topic.  Some of these sources may be very helpful or may in turn lead you to useful sources.  (example)
  • To find newer sources that reference an item you found, you can search for the item in Google Scholar and click on the Cited by link (example)
  • When you find a helpful item, look at its subject terms and try a subject search using those terms. (example)

#5 General Life Skills That Are Also Applicable To Searching

  • Check your search to see if you entered it and spelled it as you intended
  • Take a break and try again later
  • Ask for help
  • Read the "instructions"
    • Check to see if the database you are searching is appropriate for your topic.  Information about the database can usually found by clicking an i or About or similar button or tab. (example)  With EBSCO databases, click on Choose Databases and then Detailed View for this info (example)
    • Check the Help feature or Search Tips (or sometimes it will be a ?) to see if you are entering your searches correctly for that database (example) 
  • Your skills will improve with practice - especially if you pay attention to what works in different situations


Email Butler University Libraries
Irwin Library: 317-940-9227
Science Library: 317-940-9937
CAT: 317-940-8575

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