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FCS 380: Family and Consumer Sciences Foundations and Research

Search Strategy

Brainstorm Search Terms

  1. Once you have chosen a topic, write it down in the form of a question or brief statement:
    • What is the relationship between SAT scores and college success?
  2. Pull out the keywords and phrases that are most specific to your topic:
    • "SAT scores" and "college success"
  3. Take those keywords and phrases and brainstorm related terms, concepts or synonyms
    • SAT scores > "scholastic aptitude test" or "college admission test"
    • college > "university" or "higher education"
    • success > achievement
  4. Formulate a search strategy using boolean search, wildcards, phrases, etc.
    • (SAT OR "scholastic aptitude test") AND (college OR universit*) AND (succe* OR achieve*)

Overview of Search Tips and Tricks

  1. Use keywords when your term may be very new, very distinctive, or jargon, e.g. "instant messaging" or "XML."
  2. Use a variety of keywords. There may be additional items on your topic that use different terms.
  3. Be aware that you may retrieve items not related to your topic (called false drops).
  4. When you cannot remember the exact title of an item, try a keyword search using the title words you remember.

Keyword Searching Examples

Variety of terms: If you are looking for items on the "movies," use additional keywords such as "film," "films," "cinema," or "motion pictures."

An example of retrieving results unrelated to your topic (false drops): using the keyword "cricket" will retrieve items about the sport as well as the insect.

Truncation

  • Most databases allow for a symbol to be used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. This is known as truncation.
  • Using truncation will broaden your search. For example,

    bank* will retrieve: bank or banks or banking or banker or bankruptcy, etc.

  • Databases and Internet search engines use different symbols to truncate. In general, most of the Library's databases use the asterisk (*) ; however, the exclamation point (!) is used in LexisNexis. Check the database help screen to find the correct truncation symbol.
  • Be careful using truncation. Truncating after too few letters will retrieve terms that are not relevant. For example:

    cat* will also retrieve cataclysm, catacomb, catalepsy, catalog, etc.

    It's best to use the boolean operator "or" in these instances (cat or cats).

Wild Card

Some databases allow for wild cards to be embedded within a word to replace a single character. For instance, you can also use the question mark (?) within a word to replace a character. For example:

wom?n will retrieve woman or women

Narrow or Broaden Your Search

Use AND between terms to narrow your search

example: television AND violence AND children

Use OR and/or truncate (*, ?) words to broaden your search

example: children OR youth OR adolescents

example: child* (will find child, children, etc.) Note: check online help for the correct truncation symbol

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand (or) or narrow (and, not) a search within a database to locate relevant information. Boolean operators are also called logical operators or connectors.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

Statement Search Result

Or Relationship diagram

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain any of the search terms. It expands the search. Therefore, use "or" in between terms that have the same meaning (synonyms) or equal value to the search.

And Relationship diagram

women and media

And retrieves records that contain all of the search terms. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "and" in between terms that are required to make the search specific.

Not Relationship diagram

image not weight

Not eliminates records that contain a search term. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. Warning: Some databases use "and not" instead of "not." Check the database help screen.

Broaden or Narrow Search Results

Use AND between terms to narrow your search

example: history and linux and open souce

Use OR and/or truncate (*, ?) words to broaden your search

example: OS or operating system
example: comput* (will find computer, computers, computing, etc.)
example: wom?n (will find woman or women)

Note: check online help for the correct truncation symbol

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