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ENGL 01A Flatt: Searching in Databases

College Composition and Reading

Take the Tutorial

Identify Keywords

The database will look for the exact words you include in the search box in the descriptions of the items it contains. Your results are based on these matches. Not all authors use the same language to describe similar topics, so you will need to try a variety of different searches in a few databases.

  • 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 terms when searching.

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. soccer AND girls
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

basketball OR soccer

Use AND & OR together, as well.

basketball OR soccer

AND girls

Find Phrases with Quotation Marks

  • college basketball
  • “higher education”
  • "United States"

Search for Variants of Words with Truncation

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

  • news* = news, newspaper, newspapers, etc.
  • 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.

How to Choose Keywords

McMaster Libraries (2:42)

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Sarah Clark (3:04)