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Communication: Searching in Databases

Break Down Your Research Question into Keywords

The words you type into the search box affect your search results. 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 for those.
  • Stick to using 2-4 concepts at a time when searching.

Find Phrases with Quotation Marks

  • air quality
  • “environmental justice”
  • "Central Valley"

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. asthma AND children
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

California OR Merced

Use AND & OR together, as well.


AND children

AND Latin*

AND California OR Merced

Search for Variations of Words with Truncation

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

  • child* = child, children, childhood, etc.

You do have to be careful with truncation. Sometimes you might get unexpected results.

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

Selecting and Using Keywords

University of West Florida, John C. Pace Library, (3:50)

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Sarah Clark (3:04)