Break up sentences or long phrases into separate search terms. Write down initial search term ideas. Add to this list as you search and encounter other potential search terms. Cross off terms that aren't working.
Ands Ors and Nots
Combine your search terms with these connecting terms (called "Boolean operators"). Use AND to narrow a search and OR to broaden a search. Use NOT to exclude a term from your search.
Do preliminary research Don't assume there will be a lot of information on your topic. You may end up needing to narrow or broaden your search quite a bit to find anything related to your topic. Or, if you have the option, you may want to revise your topic.
Focus on scholarly sources
Use primarily scholarly and peer-reviewed sources. These sources are typically not freely available on the Web and cannot be found by searching Internet search engines like Google or Yahoo.
Books vs. Articles
Books may be helpful for background information and for familiarizing yourself with a topic. Articles can provide more current information and typically address a very narrow piece of a topic. The scope of your assignment will determine what types of sources are best.
Keep a log of your search
Keep track of what sources and search terms "work" and which ones do not.
Cite as you go
Even if you're not sure whether you will use a source, it's much easier to note the citation information up front than to decide you need it later!
Subject headings in databases and indices
Subject headings are words or phrases used to describe, by subject, the items in a database. Knowing the terms a database uses to describe information relevant to your topic can save you time because using the correct terms enables you to retrieve more quickly more relevant search results.