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
What did the ancient Greeks use for transportation?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
ancient Greeks, transportation
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
ancient Greeks - people, citizens
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.
- citizens AND transportation AND ancient Greece
- (ancient Greeks OR people OR citizens) - 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.
(ancient Greek* OR person* OR citizen*) AND transport*
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 ('wagon' instead of 'cart').
To narrow your search (few fewer):
Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
Use more specific words ('chariot' instead of 'wheels').