Keyword Searching

General Keyword Searching Strategies

Database searching is NOT like Google!  Most do not support natural language searching.  You have to be precise in the words that you select.

Join concepts together using AND and OR.

Use AND when the concepts are not related such as media AND subculture. This narrows the search as both of those words must be in the information that is being returned.

Use OR when the concepts are similar, and it does not matter which word is found in the information that is being returned.  For instance, youth OR adolescent. This broadens the search.

Use truncation when you want to allow for several spellings or variations on a word. For instance, Canad* can stand for Canada, Canadian, Canadians...

Tip: Most complex search strings are evaluated from left to right.  To make sure that you are grouping concepts together correctly, use parentheses.  For instance, (youth* OR adolescent* OR juvenile*) AND gang*

Key phrases are groups of words that always appear together.  Enclose key phrases in double quotation marks: although some databases will evaluate them as one unit, not all do (for instance, the catalogue will perform an AND keyword search).  For example, "competitive cyclists".

There is a difference between results where the words occur together in a record and where the words appear separately in an unspecified location throughout the record: it is much more likely that your results will be about your topic if they appear together as a phrase.  See for yourself!  Try Goth culture in the catalogue, both with and without the quotation marks.

Want more information and options?  Check out the help pages in the databases and in the catalogue!

Content last updated: December 12, 2018