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A Research IDEA - Indianapolis

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Develop Your Search Strategy

In this step, you will think about how you will find resources that help you to answer your research questions. A research strategy is your plan for finding the best information efficiently as possible. Although creating a plan can take a bit of time at the beginning, it saves you time overall. It will also save you a lot of frustration. 

Search Terms

Search Terms or keywords are the words and phrases entered into search boxes. The words you used and the way that those words are connected affect the search results. Do not enter your entire research question into a search box, and choose your search terms carefully.

Select keywords from research questions

Look that the research questions you wrote when developing your topic. Make note of the keywords in those questions. 


Market research

Customer Analysis

Data Collection

Social Media

Take a moment to think of any other words with similar meanings that might be used. You might also think of words that have broader or narrower meanings.

Digital Marketing

Social  Advertising

Social Media Marketing

Online Marketing

Link search terms together

AND is the most common linking term. 

Connect two search terms together with an AND to tell the computer to search for articles that contain both search terms. 

For example, you are trying to find information about how privacy laws affect data collection.

privacy AND "market research"

"data collection" AND "social media"

data collection AND privacy AND laws

Consider using other words that have similar meanings

                 "social advertising" AND "customer analysis"

Consider using words that are more specific

                "data brokers" AND Privacy

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:


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


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.

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