Watch this video to help you with search strategies for various databases:
Step 1: Write your topic out in sentence or question form
- How do Canadian social workers treat teenage drug abuse?
Step 2: Break your topic sentence up into main ideas or keywords
- Canada, social work, teenage, drug abuse
Step 3: Think of synonyms or alternate words to describe each concept
- teenage - juvenile, youth
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.
- Canada AND social work AND teenage AND drug abuse
- (teenage OR youth OR juvenile) - 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.
- (teenage* OR youth OR juvenile*) AND Canad* AND drug abuse
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.
- "drug abuse"
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 (find fewer):
- Add another concept or idea to your search with AND
- Use more specific words ('poodle' instead of 'dog').