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Illinois History Research: Searching Indexes

This guide provides information on library resources that can be used to research topics related to Illinois History.

Searching Indexes & Databases

This information is specifically written to provide information on searching America: History and Life and Historical Abstracts on the EBSCO Platform. Other database platforms may have different proximity operators and truncation symbols.

Some scholarly indexes can be searched using a system similar to Google: enter words to retrieve information on a topic. However, to search indexes such as America: History & Life a search strategy must be developed. The following information can serve as a guide to developing a search in America: History & Life.

1. Identify key terms for your search - To identify the topics to search, write a 1-sentence description or question about the topic:

What was the impact of World War I on Illinois?

How has the status of women changed in Illinois over time?

Identify the key terms in those questions. These are the terms that will be searched in the indexes:

What was the impact of World War I on Illinois?

How has the status of women changed in Illinois over time?

HINT: America: History & Life has lists of terms that are used for their subject headings. The index terms can be browsed by clicking on the word Indexes on the top left hand side of the page.

2. Use quotation marks to search phrases - Some examples include names of events, wars, places and people.

World War I               Columbian Exposition                Civil War               Abraham Lincoln               Louisiana Territory

3. Connect search terms using the word AND. AND finds terms anywhere in the record.

“Civil War” AND Illinois              "Columbian Exposition" AND Chicago             Mormons AND Illinois

If too many results are found modify your search by replacing AND with W# (use a number instead of the # symbol -- try between 6 and 10). This finds terms that are close to each other (in the same sentence) or within a given number of words. A search using W# is more precise than one using AND.

4. Search Geographic terms on a separate line. Use the pull down menu to specifically identify them as Geographic Terms. The pull-down menu heading is: GE Geographic Terms.

5. Combine terms with similar meanings using OR. Combining terms with similar meanings finds items with one of those terms.

(Mormon OR “Latter Day Saints”) AND Illinois             (Suffrage OR Voting) AND Women AND Illinois

6. Use Parentheses to group parts of a search together. Terms in parentheses will be searched before the rest of the terms in a search (see examples above).

7. To search various forms of a word, use Wildcards and Truncation symbols. The wildcards used in AGRICOLA are: ? # and *.

?             replaces a single character             Mormon? will find Mormon or Mormons
                                                                              wom?n will find woman or women

#             looks for alternate spellings             colo#r finds color or colour

*             serves as a truncation symbol to search for different forms of a word or a phrase that is missing a word.

vot* will find vote, votes, voters or voting

legislat* finds legislate, legislates, legislator, legislators, legislature, legislatures

agricult* will find agriculture, agricultural, agriculturally

La*Moine will find La Moine or LaMoine

For more information, see the summary of truncation symbols and operators for indexes available in the Western Illinois University Libraries.

8. Use NOT to eliminate items that might not be appropriate for your research. For example, it is possible to eliminate items that are written in a language you don't read by entering the language and then using the pull-down to specify the language.

(Agricult* and Illinois) NOT Soybeans

9. Use the Find It! WIU button to see if a journal article is available in the WIU Libraries. Find It Button The title of the journal containing the article will be automatically searched in the WIU Libraries' Journal search system. If the title is not available electronically, check to see if it is available in print. If an item is not available in the Libraries, it can be requested through Interlibary Loan.