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Choosing Search Terms
When you're choosing words to search for, remember that there are many different ways to describe the same idea. For example:
dog: canine, puppy, Dachsund, mutt...
You can't find what you don't search for. If you search for the terms dog and health, you won't find sources that only use the term canine to talk about dogs. Remember to search for variations of your term.
Use AND in a search to:
- narrow your results
- tell the database that ALL search terms must be present in the resulting records
- example: cloning AND humans AND ethics
The purple triangle in the middle of the Venn diagram below represents the result set for this search. It is a small set using AND, the combination of all three search words.
Be aware: In many, but not all, databases, the AND is implied.
- For example, Google automatically puts an AND in between your search terms.
- Though all your search terms are included in the results, they may not be connected together in the way you want.
- For example, this search: college students test anxiety is translated to: college AND students AND test AND anxiety. The words may appear individually throughout the resulting records.
- You can search using phrases to make your results more specific.
- For example: "college students" AND "test anxiety". This way, the phrases show up in the results as you expect them to be.
Truncation & Phrase Searching
Truncation or wildcard symbols allow you to look for variations of words. They often broaden your search results.
Example: searching on sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc.
Note: The truncation symbol is usually an asterisk (*) but can vary by database. Consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages for details.
Use quotation marks for phrase searching, i.e. "University of Georgia"
Note: searching "social work" tells the database to look for these words in this exact order - this phrase, instead of finding social in one sentence and work in another.