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ENC 5933 Seminar for Writing Consultant

Using Keywords to Search

While you can type whole sentences or questions into Google and still retrieve search results, this approach will not work when searching library resources. Instead, you will need to break down your topic and research questions into keywords

Start by generating synonyms or related terms for each keyword. When brainstorming about related concepts, you can consider concepts that are both broader and more specific than your original keywords.

Watch the following video to learn more about strategies for keyword searching.

Search Phrases and Search Limiters

Once you have your list of keywords, you can combine them into search phrases using Boolean operators to narrow or broaden the scope of your search. There are three common types of Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT. You will see these listed as options on the Advanced Search page of most library databases.

  • AND: use to combine search terms and make your search more specific, will locate sources containing all specified search terms
  • OR: use for synonyms and to broaden your search, will locate sources containing any of the specified search terms
  • NOT: use to exclude search terms and make your search more specific, will filter out results with specified term

Another strategy is to use quotation marks when you want to search for a particular phrase or concept.

Most databases and search engines will provide options to help refine your search to save you the time of sifting through irrelevant sources. Some common search limiters include publication date, language, and scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. Different subject databases provide different discipline-specific limiters as well.