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ENGL 13 Martin Ward: Searching in Databases

Critical Reasoning and Writing

Research Question

What are some ways that people could cut back on their use of plastic? 

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 of interest.
  • Come up with synonyms or related terms for those.
  • Stick to using 2-4 concepts at a time when searching.

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. reduction AND "water bottles" 
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

"single-use plastic" OR "plastic pollution"

Use AND & OR together, as well.

"single-use plastic" OR "plastic pollution"

AND "water bottles"

Use Quotation Marks to Find Phrases

  • plastic pollution
  • “single-use plastic”
  • "water bottles"

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)