CRLS 3050: Search and Evaluation Basics

Methods of Criminological Research
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Searching - A General Outline


  1. Identify keywords; think of synonyms; use encyclopedias/dictionaries to brain storm
  2. Use " " around a phrase  e.g.  "urban crime"
  3. Use a truncation symbol (usually *) to search multiple forms of word endings  e.g. famil* (for family, families)
  4. Use Boolean Operators
    • AND to Narrow search. Retrieves only items that contain ALL anded concepts
    • OR to broaden a search or combine like concepts  e.g. "law enforcement" or police
    • NOT exclude some concepts
  5. Limit the number or quality of results by
    • date range
    • scholarly or peer review
    • geography etc.
  6. Use subject headings and cited references when available for alternative results
  7. SAVE articles that are a good match to your computer, flash drive or email them 
  8. If the full-text is not available use the FindIt button; the article may be available elsewhere at MU; If not ILL (Interlibrary Loan) can find it or another library

Evaluate Sources for Reliability


  1. Purpose: Is the intent to inform, entertain, persuade or educate.
  2. Author: Does the author have expertise on the topic?
  3. Objectivity: Are various sides or points-of-view represented?  
  4. Bibliography: Are the author's sources of information cited completely?
  5. Check the Date: Is the information current or timely for your topic?
  6. Read the Abstract/Summary
  7. Scan the Headings & Subheadings for articles; for books look at Chapter titles:
  8. Read the Conclusion: The last few paragraphs in a journal or magazine article often restate the main argument, important questions and major findings.


Why Use Library Databases

Library Databases - Your Tuition at Work!

  1. Contains proprietary information not found on the web
  2. Access to Scholarly studies that have been vetted by a panel of experts; articles that have been reviewed by editorial boards
  3. Information is organized and stable

Web Search Engines

  1. No standards with regard to content
  2. Information is not well organized
  3. Information is not stable