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Elisa Vargas Library: Keyword Searches

Your Go-To source for research projects and homework help.


Brainstorming Keywords

Brainstorming Keywords

What are my major concepts?

What synonyms, broader or narrower terms, or related terms could I use?

How will I express keywords with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)?

Should I be concerned about plurals or other forms of words? (Are there truncation or wildcard features?)

Are there any proper names (people or places) that would focus my search?

Is there controlled vocabulary to consider?

Have I spelled everything correctly?


© 2004 Joyce Kasman Valenza


Advanced Boolean Search Tips

Image result for nest graphicNesting

Use nesting when combining search terms with more than one operator, so that the database software combines them in the correct order. This will work in most article databases.


(greece OR greeks) AND culture

apples AND oranges AND (juice OR cider)


Image result for quotations marksPhrase Searching

To narrow a search use quotations marks for legitimate phrases, names, and titles.

"green buildings"

"Brad Pitt""The Great Gatsby"

Truncation or Wildcards

To increase the number of hits you get, use a truncation symbol. This will find all words that have the same root or trunk. Check the search tips or help section of the databases for specifics, but most databases use the * (asterisk):

child* = child, children, childish, child's, childhood, children's, etc.


with thanks to:

Keywords & Subject Headings

Boolean Operators

Image result for boolean operators

Evaluating Your Search

Evaluate Your Search

How relevant were my hits?

Which of the hits are the best? (most relevant, timely, credible, readable, available, and promote the point of view I support)

Which of my strategies worked best? Should I try them in another database?

Are there additional keyword clues in the information I retrieved?

Did I select the best possible databases for my subject?

What should I do next?

© 2004 Joyce Kasman Valenza


Refining Searches (research is an interactive process!)

Refine Your Search

Are my hits relevant, readable, accessible?

Have I used all the strategies I planned to use?

Have I tried different combinations of keywords?

Should I use broader or narrower terms?

Have I mined the most promising hits for better vocabulary (especially in the "subject" or "descriptor" fields)?

Did I spell my search terms correctly?

Should I try a different database?

Is my topic really not "doable"? Should I consider another?



© 2004 Joyce Kasman Valenza

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