Creating a Search

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

Once you have narrowed down your research topic or research question, you can create a search to find more information.

Create a Search

First, identify the key ideas in your research topic. These should be important ideas from your topic, and should usually be changed into noun format. Many research topics will compare two or more ideas, or try to find the relationship between two or more ideas. Usually, the idea of comparison or a relationship or impact is not included in the search.

Put each idea keyword in (parentheses) separated by AND. Then find synonyms for the idea keywords, by brainstorming (thinking) or looking at research starting points. Add those synonyms inside the parentheses, separated by OR.

  • Research topic
  • (idea 1) AND (idea 2) AND (idea 3)
  • (idea 1 OR idea one) AND (idea 2 OR idea two) AND (idea 3 OR idea three)

For example:

  • Is consumerism sustainable as the population grows?
  • (consumerism) AND (sustainability) AND (population growth)
  • (consumerism OR overconsumption) AND (sustainability) AND (“population growth” OR “population increase” OR overpopulation)


  • How does culture influence communication in international business negotiations between China and the United Sates
  • (culture) AND (negotiation) AND (China) AND (United States)
  • (culture) AND (negotiation OR business) AND (China) AND (United States OR America)

Search Tips

A search with more key ideas will find less results. Sometimes it can be useful to start with two or three ideas, and add more if you need to.

Remember that keywords that are phrases made of more than one word should be inside "quotation marks".

You can use your search string in Summon, the search box on the Library Home Page. Summon is a smart search engine that is good at finding results for your key words, like Google. You can also try your search in Google Scholar, or a subject specific database. Find subject specific databases by looking at the library subject guides.

Watch our short video: Search Tips: Boolean searching, wildcards, and more

Content last updated: September 15, 2017