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A teaching guide for research

Develop Your Search Strategy

  • How will you search? What keywords will you use?
  • How will you put the keywords together (Boolean, truncation, phrasing) to develop your searching strategy? 
  • Where will you search? Which library databases are relevant to your topic? What types of sources will you use? 

Keyword searching

Use the most important (or "key") words describing your topic, not full sentences. 

If you type in a whole sentence you may only find sources that contain the exact entire sentence in the source, which will leave out most sources on your topic.

Example:Your topic is how global warming affects animals in the Arctic.

Your keywords are: global warming and animals and arctic

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are terms which help you search databases for specific information and assist you in getting what you need in an efficient and timely manner.

  • OR - expands your options and broadens your search
  • AND - combines terms or ideas and narrows your search
  • NOT - limits your search by excluding certain terms or ideas

Your search, using boolean operators, LOOKS like this:


Tip: Use a truncation symbol to find words with variant endings, including plurals.

Many databases (such as EBSCOhost) use the asterisk * as the truncation symbol, whereas IvyCat uses a ? question mark.


In EBSCOhost, climat* will find climate, climates, climatic, etc.

In IvyCat, immigra? will find immigrant, immigrants, immigration, immigrated, etc.

Keyword Tutorial


Use quotation marks around a phrase search to find those keywords in the order you typed them in instead of separately.


"global warming"

will find sources that mention global warming, whereas

global and warming

will find you sources that mention both words, regardless of whether they are next to each other in the text. Quotation marks turn a phrase into a single word, for searching purposes.

Nesting with Parentheses

Using Nesting in your search requires that the items in parentheses be searched first. Generally the items in parentheses are linked by the Boolean Operator "OR."

Use Nesting when you are trying to link two or more concepts that may have many synonyms, or may be represented by a number of different terms to obtain more comprehensive search results.

Example: (animal* or wildlife or fauna) AND arctic

Put it all together

You can combine connectors, truncation, and phrases in one search to form a search string.


("global warming" OR "climate change") AND (animal* or wildlife or fauna) AND arctic