LIBRARY RESEARCH ASSISTANCE

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FACULTY/STAFF > DEPARTMENTS & OFFICESLIBRARY > LIBRARY RESEARCH ASSISTANCE
Search Terms & Keyword Search Statements

For the best search results, develop a powerful & effective keyword search statement.

SELECTING SEARCH TERMS
Examine your research question or thesis statement and select the most specific terms representing your topic.Use AND and OR in combination with your search terms to devise a keyword search yielding useful, relevant search results.  

For example, if your research question is:

How can alternative transportation arrangements help students cope with the increasing price of gasoline? 

Choose these words from your research question:

Alternative Transportation, Gasoline 

Add in any of the following synonyms, narrower terms, alternate terms, etc.:

Carpool, ridesharing, bus, bicycle, bike, motorcyle, moped  

DEVELOPING KEYWORD SEARCH STATEMENTS

Example: 
(Alternat* Transportation OR Carpool OR Ridesharing) AND Gas*

Selecting the Advanced Search screen in most article databases is the easiest way to combine multiple terms. 

HINT: Use the first search box for your main topic terms and type OR between main topic terms. Use the second search box for your subtopic terms and type OR between subtopic terms. Make sure the "AND" is selected to link terms in the first search box with the terms in the second search box.

Truncation symbols (usually an asterisk *, sometimes a ?, otherwise a $, !, or +) enable the database search engine to locate alternate word endings. Most databases use the asterisk; use the help screens within the database to verify its truncation symbol.
Alternat* searches for Alternative, Alternatives, Alternate, Alternating.

REVISING SEARCH STATEMENTS

If you find too many sources, add another term to NARROW your search.

(Alternat* Transportation OR Carpool OR Ridesharing) AND Gas* 
--becomes:
(Alternat* Transporation OR Carpool OR Ridesharing) AND Gas* AND Cost


If you did not locate enough sources, try using fewer terms to BROADEN your search.
(Alternat* Transportation OR Carpool OR Ridesharing) AND Gas*
--becomes:
Alternat* Transporation OR Carpool or Ridesharing  

In each database you search, you may need to try different combinations of different terms to see what works. Each database operates slightly differently and may use a different vocabulary.


Please ask a reference librarian for further suggestions and assistance.