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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 for articles in databases

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

Example: What were the main points of interest in the formation of the Tea Party?

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   Use OR with synonyms or similar search terms, this requires that each record in the results include at least one of the terms

  • example: Conservatives OR Republicans

AND = less  Use AND to combine search terms for different concepts. 

  • example: "Tea Party" AND Republicans                                   

NOT = less Use NOT to eliminate commonly associated search terms for related concepts. 

  • example: Republicans NOT "Tea Party"                                   

5. REVIEW YOUR RESULTSToo 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!

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