English Language Institute (ELI) Library Guide

Useful information for ELI students about how to use the library and do research for your classes.

Searching as Exploration

Research is an inherently exploratory process. To learn more about the searching mindset and strategies for exploration, see our "Searching as Exploration" tutorial. To access this content, you will need to log in with your PODS username and password.

How to Approach Research

There are may ways to approach research. Here are just a few suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Be flexible
  • Think about who might create information on your topic
  • Brainstorm synonyms (you describe your topic one way, but someone with a different perspective might describe it differently)
  • Use the advanced search
  • Use boolean operators
  • Keep track of your results (citation management tools like Zotero can help with this)
  • Consider information skeptically, but keep an open mind

Boolean Operators


  • Useful for narrowing your results (because all search terms must be present in the resulting records).
  • Ex: bridges AND history AND civil engineering (the black triangle in the middle of the Venn diagram below represents the result set for this search).
  • Note: Most search engines and databases will assume your search terms are connected with AND.


  • Useful for broadening your results (because search results may contain either or both search terms).
  • Ex: university OR college OR higher education (the entire Venn diagram below represents the result set for this search).
  • Note: OR is especially useful if your search terms have synonyms.


  • Excludes results with whichever search term follows it.
  • Ex: mercury NOT planet (the dark green section in the Venn diagram represents the result set for this search).
  • Note: The order of your search terms matters when using NOT (results with the second search term will be excluded).



Instructional Outreach Librarian

Megan Benson's picture
Megan Benson
Bartle Library LN-2307
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Research Help

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