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Mechanics of the Research Process

Welcome to the Mechanics of the Research Process research guide.

Keyword Searching

Keyword Search Rules for the Library Catalog and Databases


Using AND/OR/NOT (Boolean Search Operators)
AND

Use AND to focus search and combine different aspects of your topic.

Example: vegetarianism and environment

OR
 

Use OR to expand your search and find synonyms/related terms.

Example: global warming or climate change

NOT

Use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search

Example: emissions trading not United States

 


Additional Search Tips

"Phrase search"  - Use quotation marks" " to search for a particular phrase.

Example: "greenhouse gas emissions"

    Truncation * - Use an asterisk to find variations of a word. Put an asterisk following the root of the word to find all variations of that word, including singular and plural.

    Example: environment* (finds environments, environmental, environmentalist, etc.)

      (Grouping/Nesting Keywords) - Use parentheses ( ) as a way to group all your search terms together.

      Example: (climate change or global warming) and population growth

        Identifying Keywords

        Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be easily be found by scanning:

        • Your initial research questions
        • Encyclopedia and other articles used when conducting background research
        • Bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

        If you are still struggling, then try these suggestions:

        • Use a thesaurus (Microsoft Office, print or online) to identify synonyms
        • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture
        • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend

        Exercises

        Need some help identifying keywords? Try the attached exercises.