Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Pro & Con: Finding Materials to Support a Position: Step 3: More Techniques

Use Imagination -- and the Advanced Capabilities of the Database

How can a searcher find the right combinations of words without numerous searches? Many databases, including Gale databases, have advanced searching capabilities that can save time. One timesaving feature is truncation. In Gale the truncation character is the asterisk (*). Typing "educat*" finds the words educate, educated, educating, educational, etc.

Try to imagine words or phrases that might be in the article you are seeking. For example, an article opposing gun control might talk about "proponents of gun control" or "gun control proponents," or "a longtime proponent of gun control," because proponents of gun control are the "other side" that the author is trying to refute. Here is an example of a search which might be done with "search within full text articles" checked off:

          proponents AND gun control

One could then weed through all the resulting articles, which include the word "proponents" and the phrase "gun control," not necessarily together. It might be more efficient to use a proximity operator, however, and search on

          proponent* N3 gun control

An operator is a command to the computer to combine search terms in a certain way. This search uses the "near" proximity operator to find "proponent" or "proponents" within three words of "gun control," in any order. It will find "proponents of gun control" or "gun control proponents," or "an outspoken proponent of gun control." Proximity operators are particularly useful in searching the full text of electronic articles.

Finally, the searcher can "nest" search operators by using parentheses.

          su marijuana and medical and (detrimental OR harmful)

In the above example, "su" indicates that "marijuana" is the subject of the article. The word "medical" must appear in the article along with either the word "detrimental" or the word "harmful," or both. Using Gale's Advanced Search screen makes this search easier:

In the illustration we have used the multiple lines and the pull-down menus to create a search that is exactly the same as "su marijuana and medical and (detrimental OR harmful)."