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Saybrook Library

Welcome to Your Trusted Information Source!

Instructional Guides

This page contains instructional guides to help you build your library skills and improve your ability to locate relevant information resources. There are links to online guides, PDF guides for downloading, brief instructional videos, and archived webinars from library instruction sessions. 

Online Guides

Instructional Videos

Watch our library videos here:

Additional videos forthcoming...

Searching Tips and Techniques


  • Words to use when beginning a search
  • Break your research question into main ideas
  • The main ideas become simple keywords to search in library databases
  • Keep a keyword list
  • Use synonyms and antonyms for your keywords
  • Example research question extracting keywords: What is the relationship between test performance and retention of ESL students?
    • Keyword = test performance, retention, ESL students
    • Synonyms: tests, exams, test-taking skill, test anxiety, academic achievement
    • Antonyms: student dropouts, student attrition, dropout prevention

Use AND, NOT and OR between search terms to narrow or broaden a search.


Use quotation marks around one or more keywords or a phrase to define precisely how you want the words to appear in the results.


Truncation allows for search of words that could have multiple endings and uses the asterisk (*) symbol.

Wildcards are symbols, such as a question mark (?), to replace letters in words where there are unknown or multiple possible characters.


Similar to formulas in algebra, nesting is useful for concepts that are expressed in multiple ways. 

Example: teenager = adolescent = young adult = teen

  • Use parentheses () to keep concepts that are alike together. This tells the database to search nested terms first.


How close are two or more search terms in the results? 

Example: curriculum theories = theories of curriculum = theories involving curriculum = theories about curriculum, etc.

  • Search curriculum N3 theories: searches for curriculum within three words of theories


A field is a specific part of a database record such as author, title, subject, year of publication, etc. Use the Advanced Search within OneSearch or individual databases to enter search terms and use the dropdown menus to search by a particular field.


Most databases have a controlled vocabulary which are descriptive words assigned to an article. Articles with similar themes are classified together under a specific subject heading. Using the terms in the thesaurus is a more focused way to search.