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Research Survival Guide: Scholarly Research - Search Strategies

This guide will help you learn how to conduct college-level research for your classes.

Search Strategies

Before conducting your searches in library databases, come up with a search strategy that will help you find information.

Search Strategy

  • Choose your topic and turn that topic into a question.
    • Determine what you want to know about your topic.
  • Come up with keywords that will help you search for articles.
    • Keywords are significant words/phrases that describe your topic.
    • Can be found in the title, abstract, author, text, etc. of the articles.
    • Watch this video from Winona State University to learn how to select and use keywords.
  • Select a database and type in your keywords into the separate search boxes.
    • Too many results? Add other keywords to narrow down the results.
    • Too few results? Remove a keyword or add synonyms of your keywords to expand the results.
  • Use subject headings in the databases to narrow down your search.
    • Subject headings are descriptive words assigned to an article by catalogers/indexers.
    • Items with similar themes or about similar subjects can be found under the database’s subject headings.
    • Watch this video from the Utah State University Libraries to learn more about the differences between searching with subject headings vs. keywords.

Use Boolean Operators in your search to expand or narrow down your search. Watch this video from McMaster Libraries to learn more about how to use Boolean Operators.  

Boolean Operators

Using the Boolean Operators together will help narrow down or expand your results in different ways: 

Boolean Venn Diagram