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Anthropology: Reviewing Search Strategies

Identify Keywords

The databases simply match the words you enter in the search box. Not all authors use the same language to describe similar topics, so you will need to try a variety of searches.

  • Create a list of possible words that could appear in a book or article related to your topic.
  • Come up with synonyms or related terms.
  • Stick to using 2-4 nouns when searching.


  • college = university, "higher education", undergraduates, etc.
  • "American Dream" = "social mobility", "upward mobility"

Connect Keywords with AND, OR, NOT

Using AND, OR, and NOT with keywords can help broaden or narrow your search.


joins dissimilar terms; helps narrow your search


college AND "social mobility"

joins similar terms; helps broaden your search


colleges OR universities

excludes terms; helps narrow your search


college NOT "graduate students"

Find Phrases with Quotation Marks

  • higher education
  • “first generation”
  • "town-gown relations"

Use Truncation to Find Word Variations

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

  • character* = character, characters, characterization, etc.

You do have to be careful because you might get unexpected results.

  • minor = minor, minors, minority, minorities, minoritized, etc.

How Library Stuff Works: How to Choose Keywords

How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT)