Whether you are searching the library catalogue, a database, or the internet, you can follow these steps for effective searching:
1. Define your topic Before you begin searching, think about your assignment and define some of its key terms - an assignment on 'postmodernist American fiction', for example, will require you to have a good understanding of what 'postmodernist' means. You might want to consider using a dictionary or other reference work (either print or electronic) to help you understand your terms.
2. Identify keywords Again, before you start searching, make a list of keywords for your assignment. Try to think beyond the actual words given in the assignment title, and identify synonyms and related terms (e.g. dramatist and playwright might be used interchangably, so you should try searching under both).
3. Select the most relevant sources of information Are you looking for full-text journal articles only? If so, just search full-text databases such as Academic Search Elite. If you are looking to do more comprehensive research, you should search both full-text databases and bibliographic sources. DISCOVER searches a wide range of full-text and bibliographic records and is often a good place to start your search.
4. Search and evaluate the results - Use your keywords to search your selected database(s). You may find that you will have to try different terms (or combinations of terms) to get the best results. Read the abstract of an article (if it is available) in order to decide which articles are most relevant for your assignment.
Remember - searching for information is a process. Don't get frustrated if you don't find things immediately - try different keywords or a different database if you don't find the information you are looking for in the first instance. If you are finding very little information, be flexible and broaden your search.
Also, remember that your subject librarian is here to help - just ask!