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Database Searching and Strategies (HC): Search Tips

Database Searching and Strategies (HC)

Searching Strategies and Techniques

Journal databases and library catalogs are content-rich and constructed for many different types of inquiries.  Use the searching strategies and techniques outlined below to capture relevant content.  This will produce more focused results than a simple keyword search.

In putting together search terms, think about the topic and how specific you want it to be. You will find often that there is more material than you expected and that you actually want to focus your search by adding a further concept.

You might be interested in finding out more about human rights.  After browsing some books, you decide that human rights during periods of war is what you want to research.

Use AND to join two different concepts together, seeing only those results that discuss both ideas.        

         war AND human rights

Use OR to include synonyms for relevant results. Group the synonyms within parentheses to be searched correctly.   
Enclose phrases in quotation marks. 
         (justice OR law OR "human rights")


Combine OR and AND searches together      (war* OR conflict*) AND ("human rights" OR justice) AND sudan*

Use truncation to get words with similar spellings in one search:    war*  searches war, warfare, wars, wartime

For truncation within a word, use a question mark:    wom?n  searches women, woman, and womyn

Put phrases in "" "" for exact searches:    "truth and reconciliation" searches only for those words together in that order

Too many results?  Change the search field to Abstract which summarizes the content or Subject for more focused results

When you find a journal article that interests you, look at the abstract and subject terms.  

Are there ideas that relate to your topic? Use those new concepts to look for additional articles.