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NUTR 10 Hobbs: Reviewing Basic Search Strategies


Identify 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 when searching.

Connect Keywords with Boolean Operators

Operator Example
AND joins dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search. keto AND "weight loss"
OR joins similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

"keto diet" OR "ketogenic diet"

Use AND & OR together, as well.

"keto diet" OR "ketogenic diet"

AND "weight loss"

Find Phrases with Quotation Marks

  • “nutritional value”
  • “vegetarian diet”
  • "blood sugar"

Find Different Word Variations with Truncation

The asterisk * is the most common truncation symbol.

  • keto* = keto, ketogenic, etc.

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

  • diet* = diet, diets, dietary, dietetics, dietitian, etc.

Developing Keywords for Health Sciences Research

If you search for your broad topic in the scholarly literature, you will find too many results.

One way narrow a broad topic from the health sciences is to add a:

  • a specific population or
  • intervention (treatment) or
  • health outcome

Before: gluten-free diets 

After: How effective is a gluten-free diet on the gastrointestinal symptoms of adults with celiac disease

A gluten-free diet is an intervention (treatment) for people with celiac disease (a specific population), which can help with the reduction of gastrointestinal issues (health outcome).

How to Choose Keywords

McMaster Libraries (2:42)