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Research through the Library: Develop Search Strategies

Identify Key Concepts

After you have a topic for your assignment you may want to devise a search strategy before you begin looking through article databases and the online catalog for information.  

First, you will want to break your topic down into basic concepts.  For example, if your topic is "the effects of high school bullying on academic performance" 

The main concepts for this topic are: high school, bullying, and academic performance  

All of these concepts are prominent aspects of the search topic, as you can see "effects" has been left out as a search keyword since 

Synonyms and Related Searching

Next, coming up with synonyms and related search terms.  Some examples might be:

high school=secondary school, teenagers, high school students

bullying=antagonize, intimidation

academic performance=academic success, grades, achievements

Notice that some these terms are more narrow and some are broader.  If you need more search results a broader term may help you, while a narrow term may help to decrease the number of results.  So, create a list of synonyms to have on hand when you search.

Using Boolean Operators

Most databases and Internet search engines use Boolean operators.  Boolean logic was created by mathematician George Boole (1815-1864).  Boolean logic allows the user to combine words or phrases that represent key concepts in a keyword search in an online database through the use of Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT.  

Here is a quick video further explaining how Boolean operators work in a search

Note: In most databases AND is the default operator.


Jenny Duncan's picture
Jenny Duncan