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Search Strategies & Citation Managers: Undergraduate Research Fellows: Search Strategies
Choose a particular database from the alphabetical list or click on your subject area for key databases in your field.
Choosing Effective Keywords
How To Choose Effective Keywords
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.
What Are Boolean Operators?
Boolean operatorsare 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.
Why Use Them?
To focus a search when you are using multiple terms
To include synonyms for your search terms in order to find all variations
To exclude terms not relevant to your search
Using AND (Narrowing)
How To Use AND
Use the operator "AND" in a search to:
Narrow your results
Tell the database that ALL the terms must be present in the search results
TIP: Put phrases such as United States or college students in "" to tell the database you want those terms together in your search
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.
Using OR (Broadening)
How to Use OR
Use the operator OR to:
Broaden your search by telling the database that ANY of the terms can be present in your results
To include synonyms or related concepts for your search terms
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