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English 1010 Research Guide: Search Strategies

This guide is intended to help students in ENGL 1010 identify and learn how to get started using library databases for academic research. The library catalog and some of our most popular multidisciplinary databases are covered.

Creating Search Statements

Creating good search statements will help speed up your research and retrieve the best results while hopefully minimizing the number of irrelevant results.  The strategies mentioned on this page - using keywords, boolean operators, truncation and phrases - are not absolutely required for all search engines but they can make any search engine, even Google, work better for you. 

Identifying Keywords & Synonyms

  • Reduce the thesis statement to important terms or keywords
  • Example:  What is the relationship between
    advertisements and teenagers' self image?
  • Think of SYNONYMS:   teenagers = teens or youth or adolescents

Truncation & Phrases

  Library Catalog (WYLDCAT) EBSCOhost & ProQuest
Finds everything with the words
teen, teens, or teenagers
not necessary, uses fuzzy search to locate similar terms teen*
Phrase Use quotes:
"mental health"
Use quotes:
"mental health"

Boolean Operators

Search Statement:

television AND violence

AND, OR and NOT operators

  • only retrieves content where both keywords are present (shown in green on diagram above)
  • is the most restrictive search (i.e., brings back fewer results)
  • is best for combining two or more different concepts (such as television AND violence)
  • OR
  • retrieves content where either word is present (represented by all colors in diagram above)
  • is the broadest search (brings back the most results)
  • is best when searching with synonyms (ex: teens OR adolescents)
  • NOT
  • will exclude terms from your search, similar to the - (negative sign) in Google (ex: football NOT dolphins)


Boolean example courtesy of Crystal Stratton