Search Strategies

Changes to Library services during the COVID-19 service disruption.

Once you have chosen a database or Omni to search for journal articles on your topic, use these strategies for creating an effective search:

Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form

Who was the more significant leader, Augustus or Caesar?

Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords

Augustus, Caesar, leader

Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept

leader - commander, ruler

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 :  Caesar AND Augustus AND leader
  • Use OR to broaden your search to include synonyms : (leader OR commander OR ruler) - NOTE: OR terms must be bracketed

Step 5: Add wildcards to search for all possible word endings

A wildcard is usually represented by a *.  This is also called truncation : Caesar AND Augustus AND leader*

Step 6: Consider Key Phrase searching

Some databases search each word separately.  To ensure that your words are evaluated as a key phrase, enclose them in double quotation marks. 

"Julian Calendar"

Step 7: 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').

Content last reviewed: July 17, 2020