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GEO 616: Search Strategies

This guide is intended to assist students in Dr. James Leonard's graduate-level course.

Tips for Upper-level Students


  • Problem: you are using all of the advanced search options, but you're not finding enough results.
  • Solution: It's better to start wide/general and then use options and filters to narrow your search results.



  • Problem: there are several ways to construct your search. 
  • SolutionAlways write down any synonyms for your search terms and simply try combinations of those terms.
    • The author of a publication may be using a certain term or jargon, while you are searching for another one. Example: "punch drunk syndrome" versus "CTE" or "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy"
    • Databases might not make connections between similar terms
    • Use Advanced Search option Boolean operator "or" to combine terms:


  • Problem: you only have so much time to do research!
  • Solution: look for Help options within the databases that can increase the efficiency of your search




Use the examples below for help within specific databases



Summon search icon

Summon Advanced Search  Content Type & Discipline filters


Academic Search (EBSCOHost)

Ebsco Host icon

Main search page  Search Options, Apply Equivalent Subjects + Apply Related Words + Also Search Within Full text of articles


Science Direct

This database has options similar to Summon when you need to narrow down a large number of results to the most relevant to meet your needs, such as:

  • Article Type (Figure A) and Subject Areas (Figure B) options, which appear on the results page after you have entered your keywords (or from the Advanced Search page before you have entered your keywords). 
  • Related Articles once you are on an individual result page (Figure C).
Screenshot of Science Direct Article Type options

Figure A

Screenshot of Science Direct Subject Areas options

Figure B

Screenshot of Science Direct Recommended Articles feature

Figure C


GeoRef (a ProQuest database) provides a helpful Search Tips link on the Advanced Search page, featuring information on how to get the best out of your search queries. Pictured below is just one example:Screenshot of GeoRef Search Tips

MU doesn't have it? Get it from another library!

Visit the Information Delivery Services page to request a book, article, DVD, or other materials from another university library in the event that Marshall Libraries can't provide access.