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1. When searching in library databases its not effective to enter entire research topic or question like you would in Google. Instead, you want to break down your topic or question into keywords. Ask yourself what are the main points or ideas of your topic?
2. Let's say you were researching methods for encouraging student engagement in high school students in rural communities, your keywords would be: rural communities, student engagement and high school.
3. It is also useful to brainstorm alternate keywords for your topic. These can be synonyms, sub topics you are interested in, related terms, etc.
There are also words that aren't useful as keywords. Such as "effect" or "benefit". Instead, try to brainstorm specific effects or benefits to use as keywords. If you find an article you like look at their "Abstract," and "Subjects" to find new keywords.
Boolean operators are terms you can use to narrow or broaden your search in a database, library catalog or Google Scholar. The three basic operators are: AND, OR, and NOT.
Use the operator "AND" in a search to:
Search String: Anxiety AND "college students" AND alcohol
The search above tells the database that you want each article in your results to mention ALL the search terms. This narrows your results because all the terms must be present instead of any articles about anxiety, or college students, or alcohol.
Search String: Racism AND elections AND "United States"
The venn diagram below demonstrates that AND is the intersection of all your search terms - thus it narrows your search.
Use the operator OR to:
Search String: College students OR university students OR undergraduates OR graduate students
The example above will broaden your search because it will pull up articles with ANY of those terms present.
Search String: Feminism OR Gender inequality OR women's rights