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Research Strategies

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*)

Boolean Operators

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

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

women or females

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain anyof 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.

women and media

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.

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.