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.
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').