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Engineering Summer Academy (BESST): Searching strategy

Beach Engineering Student Success Team (BESST)

Search preparation

Step 1:

  • Choose topic or has a topic been provided by instructor?

  • Brainstorm about topic – is it too broad or too narrow? Browse ASEE Prism Magazine for ideas

  • Break topic into keywords

  • Construct a search strategy using AND, OR and Truncation *

Step 2:

  • Select database (s) from this research guide or check Databases by Subject or consult a librarian; OneSearch is a good place to start

  • Check your results – are you getting relevant hits? No? Consult box opposite.

  • Limit by date; in engineering we generally search for articles published in the last 5 years for currency

  • Limit by type of material if necessary (usually limit to peer-reviewed articles) but check your syllabus – are magazine articles, chapters in books, books acceptable?

Step 3:

  • Review titles and abstracts (summaries) of articles and decide which ones are relevant to your topic

  • Are they full-text? Check for PDF links or click on Getit@CSULB link to find full-text in other databases

  • If not available full-text, you can request via BeachReach


Not getting enough? Getting too many?

Getting not enough or no results? (HOW TO GET MORE)

  • Check spelling

  • Check which field you are searching (topic, author, etc.)

  • Use less key words (get less specific)

  • Use more "OR's" (common name, synonyms)

  • Try another database

Getting too many results? (HOW TO GET LESS)

  • Add more concepts (get more specific)

  • Use more limiters (years, peer-reviewed only, etc.)

Library Lingo



Call number




Peer Reviewed


Reference - Encyclopedias etc. that cannot be checked out

Reserve -  Books and other items for courses selected by instructors

Call Number - Number on the spine of a book or journal determining its place on the shelf

Database -searchable list of article titles and abstracts

Citation - identifying information of an article (title, author, etc.)

Abstract - summary of an article found at the beginning and in databases

Peer Reviewed - A premium quality journal article that has been reviewed by others knowledgeable in the field prior to publication

Journal - a published collection of articles (previously in print, now frequently online only)