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ENGL 01A Baker: Reviewing Search Strategies

College Composition and Reading

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.
  • Stick to using 2-4 concepts at a time.

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. "South Africa" AND racism
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

segregation OR apartheid

Use AND & OR together, as well.



"criminal justice" OR courts


"South Africa"

Use Quotation Marks to Find Phrases

  • South Africa
  • “criminal justice system”
  • "Apartheid legislation"

How Library Stuff Works: How to Choose Keywords

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies