If you search a catalog or database and receive a large number of results, add a limit or additional keyword in order to retrieve a manageable and relevant number of results to review. At the same time overly narrow search terms can return too few results. One way of solving both problems is to use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), which allow you to limit or expand searches depending on your needs.
For example, a search for health AND politics will return items that contain both "politics" and "health":
health OR medicine returns items that contain either one of the terms or both:
west africa NOT liberia returns items that talk about the region but do not mention the country Liberia:
An important strategy to use when searching for phrases ("political ecology") or titles:
For example, "Pathologies of Power"
will search for those words in that order, finding the 2003 book by Paul Farmer about structural violence and the rights to health and social justice.
Truncation and Wildcards:
Most catalogs and databases enable users to search variations of keywords by using truncation (*) or wildcard (e.g., ?, $, !) symbols.
For example, one could search for politic* to find poltic, politics, political, politicking, and so on.
Wildcard searches are for differences within words: a search for wom?n will return results for woman, women, and womyn.
When pairing two or more keywords with another keyword, it is important to "nest" the former terms within a larger Boolean search.
(health* OR medicine*) AND (govern* OR politic*) AND ("west africa*" OR nigeria*) will return results for the union of the three subject areas.
Results include: Wealthiest is Not Always Healthiest: What Explains Differences in Child Mortality in West Africa?
Ickowitz, Amy. SSRN Working Paper Series, Jan 2014. Full text