Once you have chosen a database to search for journal articles on your topic, here are some strategies for creating an effective search:
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
How did Aboriginals participate in the fur trade in Canada?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
aboriginals, fur trading, canada
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
aboriginals - natives, indians
Tip: Use dictionaries, encyclopedias, or a thesaurus to find alternate words.
Step 4: Add "Boolean operators" (AND, OR) to make a complete search statement
- Use AND to limit or narrow your search to results that mention all of your keywords.
- Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms.
aboriginal AND fur trading AND canada
aboriginals OR natives OR indians
Step 5: Add wildcards to search for all possible word endings
A wildcard is usually represented by a *. This is also called truncation.
aboriginal* OR native* OR indian*
Step 6: Evaluate your results
If you are finding too many or too few results, try these tricks:
To broaden your search (find more):
- Find synonym for each keyword.
- Search for a broader concept ('dog' instead of 'poodle').
- Use wildcards/truncation.
To narrow your search (few fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND.
- Use more specific words ('poodle' instead of 'dog').