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Fullerton College Library

History of the United States

This guide is an entryway to the library's resources on American history.

Search Tips

No Google Searches!

Many students make the mistake of using the same type of search strategies that they use in Google. They cram their search into one search box when Advanced search boxes are available. 

Search tips:
  • Separate your keywords into different search boxes by topic using the ADVANCED SEARCH boxes.
  • Truncate keywords to retrieve various endings for your search terms. Truncation is great for pulling up both singular and plurals of your word.

Example:  teen* will search for teens, teen, teenager, teenagers, teenaged

                 subculture* will retrieve subculture, subcultures

                communis* will retrieve communism, communist, communists, communistic

    communist* will retrieve communist, communists, communistic

  • Combine synonyms or related terms by putting them in the same search box and combining them with OR.   

Example: social change OR social aspects

                subculture* OR counterculture*

  • Phrase searches. You may put phrases in quotation marks to keep the words next to each other. This is optional and only recommended if you see that you're getting false hits when the words in your phrase have been separated. Try your phrase without quotation marks to see your results.

Examples: “underground railroad”  "social change" 

"John Paul Jones"  (so you don't get John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and Norah Jones)


A student wants to find information on women's struggle to obtain the right to vote during the late 1800s. 

 How can we improve on the ineffective search below?  How many results do you get with this search?

There is no one correct way to combine search terms so here is only one example:

  • Separate out your concepts by subjects and eliminate superfluous words like to, in, the.
    • women's rights
    • 1800s
  • Combine synonyms and related terms with OR
    • women's right OR suffrage   

(IMPORTANT Note: Particularly with historical topics, you want to keep in mind terms that were used during that period. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, women's rights activists were known as suffragettes or suffragists so you should incorporate that terminology in your search. 

If you're searching for more recent articles on women's rights, you should include more contemporary keywords including feminists or women's movement. Then incorporate search terms that describe the issue(s) that you're researching such as equal pay, job promotions, or maternity leave.

  • 1800s or 19th century or nineteenth century
  • ​Use truncation and quotations as needed
    • ​Suffrag* will retrieve suffrage, suffragette, suffragettes, suffragist, suffragists

Your search will then look like this:

Try this search and compare the results with the Google type search shown previously. If you notice your phrase words get separated in your results, you can enclose your phrases with quotation marks. ("19th century", "women's rights", "voting rights")

Above all, have patience and perseverance. The above search is only a start! You will find yourself modifying your search as you look for different aspects of your topics and as you find new search terms while reviewing your results.