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American Government Guide: Hints for searching

Resources on American government.

Searching the Catalog

Use the Library Catalog to find books, dvds, or other materials in the library.  Search by topic, title or author (last name first).  When searching by topic, or word, type in a broad topic, for example, "political parties" or "civil war"

Try a search in our OneSearch Catalog below!

Searching journal databases

1. CHOOSE A TOPIC: Phrase your topic as a question to define your search.

Example: Does television violence cause violent behavior?

2. PREPARE YOUR SEARCH: List keywords and synonyms for each aspect of the topic:


  • Instead of POLITICS, Key words might be: "government policy", "affairs of state", "party policy"
  • Instead of DEMOCRACY, Keywords might be: "government by the people", "political equality", "constitutional rights"

3.CHOOSE A DATABASE: You may choose a general database or a specific one, or search our streaming videos or ebook titles.

 4.TRY A SEARCH: Keep it simple at first!

  • Use the simplest, most important words to describe your topic
  • Later, try to establish connections between words and phrases with Boolean connectors

 OR = more

  • example: Conservatives OR Republicans

                                         Use OR with synonyms or similar search terms

                                         Each record in the results must include at least one of the terms

 AND = less

  • example: "Tea Party" AND Republicans

                                    Use AND to combine search terms for different concepts.

                                    Each record in the results must include both terms.

NOT = less

  • example: Republicans NOT "Tea Party"

                                    Use NOT to eliminate commonly associated search terms for

                                    related concepts.  Each record in the results must exclude the

                                    specified terms
Too many results?  Consider more specific aspects of your topic to explore.

           Too few records Try synonyms, fewer keywords or broader terms.

            Check for: authority, scope, currency, bias, source, etc.

6. FIND THE ARTICLE: Remember that you can also use the citation tool in the databases to find the one you need!

All Content CC-BY.