Just like choosing (and using) a research management technique will save you time and energy during the research process, taking time to collect background information an develop a search strategy will set you up on the path for success. Some ideas for developing a list of search terms are:
- Begin your list of keywords with the 5 W’s: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY
- Perform background research in reference sources such as encyclopedias (Wikipedia and Everipedia are common crowd-sourced encyclopedias), handbooks, government documents and reference databases
Once you have some keywords to start with, check out these tips for searching any database, even search engines like Google.
- Try Boolean Search Operators
When you use a search bar, you’re asking a computer a question. You can make the most out of a computer’s processing by using rules to better define your search. Boolean operators — AND, OR and NOT — are some rules you can use.
- ANDreturns the overlapping results between two search terms to narrow search results. For example, searching chair AND leather will return only results that include both terms.
- OR returns results that include one or more search terms to broaden search results. For example, searching chair OR leather will return more results having to do with chairs and leather.
- NOT eliminates terms from search results. For example, searching chair NOT leather will return results about chairs, but none that include leather.
Perform a phrase search by enclosing a string of words in quotation marks. By doing this, you retrieve more specific results. To see how this works, try searching “fine press books” with and without the quotation marks.
A truncation mark is a symbol used to search the many forms of a word. Different databases use different truncation marks, but the asterisk (*) is commonly used. In databases that use the asterisk for truncation, searching librar* will return results including library, libraries and librarians.