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DEC250: Engage & Explore

Library guide to accompany the 15-week DEC250 Engage & Explore course.

Library Search Strategies

If you're struggling to find information, try these ideas:

Research Starters

Research Starters provide quick overviews of a broad topic. Research Starters appear at the very top of your DragonQuest search results if one happens to be available on your topic. The following image shows the location of a Research Starter on the broad topic "drug abuse."

DragonQuest search for "drug abuse" with a research starter featured on the topic


Many Research Starters contain additional links to topics and resources, along with recommended search strategies to help you locate additional information or explore related topics.

Use Resource Types

You can use the "Refine Results" area in DragonQuest to limit your search results to a specific type of resource OR narrow down our list of databases by the types of materials they contain. As an example, if you're looking to identify a community problem, you might benefit by browsing our collection of electronic newspapers. The following image shows the A to Z list dropdown menus to help you select databases which only contain certain types of resources.

All database types dropdown menu is open with "newspapers" highlighted


Consider using some of the following "community problem" keywords in DragonQuest:

  • drug abuse
  • petty crime
  • poverty
  • racism
  • teen pregnancy
  • clean drinking water
  • hunger
  • inequality
  • child abuse and neglect
  • affordable housing

A keyword search is the broadest search you can conduct inside our discovery service. For more information on search and retrieval in DragonQuest, you may also want to consult our DragonQuest tutorial.

Boolean Searching

Advanced Search features allow you to use Boolean operators to adjust your search settings

Boolean searching allows you to include or exclude specific terms from your search to help you more easily locate materials. This is done by using the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT. These dropdowns are available at the top of your search results. A brief explanation of each Boolean operator:

  • AND – Pulls resources where all of your search terms appear. AND makes your search smaller.
  • OR – Pulls resources where one or the other or both of your search terms appear. Using OR makes your search larger.
  • NOT – Excludes a word from your search. Using NOT makes your search smaller.

Using a series of dropdown menus, you can also select which specific fields of an item’s record that you want to search, such as title or author.

Research on the Web

When browsing the web for information, consider the following search strategies:

  • Search for "community resources" and the name of your city, county, and state through a search engine like Google
  • Search social media platforms for groups and pages in your area
  • Locate government (.gov) websites for your city, county, and state
  • Consider public entities (schools, churches, shelters, food pantries, and other non-profit organizations). Review their websites and/or visit office locations locally (They are often happy to provide information!)

Recommended websites include:

Evaluating Sources

The SCRAAP test is an easy way to remember how to evaluate sources in general. SCRAAP means...

 SCRAAP: Self-awareness, currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose

Allen, M. A. (2017). Information literacy and Confirmation Bias: You can lead a person to information, but can you make him think?


Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating information to keep a sense of self-awareness:

  • Do I already have an opinion or a desired result from the information I seek?
  • Will my background or personal belief impact how I evaluate the information?
  • Am I willing to attempt to remove my personal bias from my information evaluation process?
  • Am I willing to seek, evaluate, and use information that may differ from my personal beliefs?


Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating currency of information:

  • When was the information published or posted? How timely is the material?
  • Has it been updated? Have there been new versions or editions since this was published?
  • How important is the date to the subject material? How quickly does new research for this topic come out?
  • Does new research expand upon or replace old information for this topic?


Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the relevance of information:

  • Does the material fit with your topic? Does this source help answer your question? Does only part of it help?
  • Is it covering all aspects of your topic or only parts?
  • How detailed is the information? Is it too basic for your needs? Too advanced? Would you be comfortable citing it?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is it written at an appropriate level?


Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the authority of information:

  • Who is the author? What can you find about them in the source itself or through a web search?
  • Is the author a professor or other expert? Does the author have a degree related to the topic? Has the author written on the topic previously? Is the author drawing from her own personal experience?
  • Has the information been reviewed in some way, such as by an editor or through peer review? Was it self-published or posted on a personal site? Where was it published?
  • Is there contact information for the author or publisher?


Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the accuracy of information:

  • Is the information reliable, truthful, and correct? Is the spelling and grammar correct?
  • Have you looked at more than one source? Is there supporting evidence? Do multiple reports have similar information?
  • Does the author cite other sources? What does s/he cite? Are there still working reference links to sources on a website?
  • For studies, experiments, and other original research, does the author explain the method s/he used to find the results? Are there flaws in the methodology or analysis?


Some questions to ask yourself when evaluating the purpose of information:

  • Why did the author publish this source? What is the author’s intent with the material? Is s/he looking to inform, teach, advocate, sell, or entertain?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is this designed for general readers or academic readers?
  • Was the material sponsored? What political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, personal or other perspectives does/could the author have?
  • Does the information seem impartial? What perspectives are not included within this resource, especially less privileged perspectives?