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CRIM 37 Jackson: Basic Searching in Databases

Communication and Ethics in Law Enforcement

Identify Keywords

The database will look for the exact words that you enter into the search bar, so rather than ask an entire question, break down your topic or research question into 2-4 concepts that represent your topic. You'll get better matches this way.

Think about your topic or research question.

  • 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.
  • You will want to try a variety of combinations.

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. "community policing" AND California
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

police OR "law enforcement"

Use AND & OR together, as well.

police OR "law enforcement"

AND communication

Find Phrases with Quotation Marks

  • criminal justice
  • “law enforcement”
  • media bias

Use a Truncation Symbol to Find Word Variations

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

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

You do have to be careful with truncation. 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)