COMM 1313 : Public Speaking

A resource guide for researching your speeches.

Tips for Finding and Evaluating Sources

Boolean Operators

Venn Diagram with only the center area where both circles overlap highlighted.

  • AND limits to results with both of the connected keywords
  • Use AND to narrow you research and return fewer results

Venn Diagram with all areas highlighted.

  • OR limits to results which contain either of the connected terms
  • Use OR to broaden your search and return more results

Venn Diagram with the left portion of the left-most circle highlight.

  • NOT limits to results which contain the first term but exclude the second, connected term
  • Use NOT to narrow your search and return fewer results
Phrase Searching 
  • Use quotation marks to group two or more words together 
  • Phrase searching ensures that the words inside the quotes will be found in your results exactly as you wrote them
  • Examples:
        “social media”
        “high school” 
  • Limiters can be used to narrow your search results
  • Full Text will limit your results to items you can read in full, online
  • Peer-Reviewed or Scholarly will limit your results to academic journal articles
  • Date limiters can help you narrow your results by publication date
Truncation and Wildcards
  • Truncation substitutes a symbol, usually an asterisk (*), for any ending of a root word
  • Example:
    econom* = economic, economy, economize, economist, etc.
  • Wildcards are symbols, usually a question mark (?), substituted for one character in a word
  • Example:
    ma?e = mace, made, male, etc.
Subject Headings and Descriptors
  • Subject headings or Descriptors are controlled terms and phrases assigned to articles by reviewers to describe the articles' content
  • Search for specific subject headings to descriptors to limit results to articles that are primarily about specific topics or concepts
  • Each database has unique subject headings and descriptors; they can usually be found in a thesaurus or help page 
Annotated screenshot of an ERIC (Ebsco) search identifying examples of search techniques.
  1. Boolean operators
    • AND separates each search box
    • OR separates synonymous or related keywords
  2. Phrase searching
    • quotes ensure that the keyword "action research" is searched as a phrase
  3. Subject headings
    • The keyword "action research" is searched for in the SU Descriptor field to narrow results to articles tagged with the subject heading "action research"
  4. Truncation
    • number* will return keywords like numberal, numberals, numberacy
    • number* will return keywords like number, numbers
  5. Limiters 
    • Search has been limited to full text, peer-reviewed articles, published in or after the year 2000 





Not all resources you find are created equal! Use the CRAAP test to critically evaluate sources, especially those found online.


  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?


  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?


  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • For web sources, does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?


  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or typographical errors?


  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Source: The CRAAP Test was developed by librarians at Meriam Library, California Statue University, Chico. 

A simple Google search can return millions of results in a fraction of a second. How can you refine your search to find narrower, more focused, higher quality results?

Tip 1: Limit your search to specific top-level domains to narrow your search.

Top-level domain names (the two, three, or four letters at the end of a URL) can tell you a lot about who controls the site and the types of content available there.

.com .gov .edu .org
This is an unrestricted domain. Anyone can create and own a .com site. This domain is only for governmental use, and is almost exclusively used by US governmental entities and agencies. This domain is only for education use, and is almost exclusively used by US colleges and universities. This is an unrestricted domain, but is often used by non-profit organizations.


Tip 2: Limit your search to a specific website.

When searching for information within a specific website, you can limit your search to that site. This can be very useful for locating resources from professional association websites or even government sites.


Tip 3: Search for an exact phrase.

"reading intervention"
"Every Student Succeeds Act"
"total water intake"

Use quotation marks around phrases to search for words in the order they are typed. Use this technique to keep important words together and search them as a phrase instead of individual terms.


Tip 4: Exclude a word, phrase, or site from your search.

-"Besty DeVos"

Add a minus sign directly before a word, phrase (in quotes) or site: restriction to remove that term from your results. This is very helpful when your results are clogged with unrelated, extraneous results.