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Literature Reviews

Search Tips

searching.jpg Successful searching requires two important steps.

First, you need to identify the main concepts of your topic. Then you need to search these concepts with a variety of techniques.

There are several search strategies which are available in numerous catalogs, databases and search engines.

Try some of the strategies on thepages to the left for a successful search or view our tutorial Search Strategies Made Easy.

Also check out the Research Basics Tutorial for a complete overview of the research process.

Database Search Tips

Boolean Operators (And, Or, Not)

AND - narrows a search; Use to combine key concepts, for example: Water AND Pollution.









OR - broadens a search; Use to add concepts, for example: Pollution OR Water.









NOT - excludes search term(s). Use to eliminate a concept, for example: Water NOT Pollution. Use sparingly!








To practice Boolean Searching, go to Exercise: Boolean Operators.

Truncation or Stemming or Wild Cards

Use a truncation symbol, such as ? or *, to find several words with the same root, for example:
writ* (finds writer, writers, writing, writings, etc.)

child* (finds child, childish, children, and childhood)

behavio?r (finds behavior and behaviour)

Use a truncation symbol when there multiple spellings of a name or word, for example:
Kath* (finds Katherine, Kathryn, Katharine, Katheryn, Kathrine, Kathryne)

Phrase Searching (Quotation Marks)

Use quotation marks to search an exact phrase, for example: "higher education"

Field Searching

Academic Search Complete Search Fields
TX All Text
AU Author
TI Title
SU Subject Terms
AB Abstract

Electronic records are organized into separate fields. A typical record includes the following major fields: title, author, and subject. Databases often have several other fields, such as keyword, location, date, and journal title. See the example to the right of some possible fields. Most catalogs and databases allow users to search specific fields individually or in combination.

Use a title search for the fewest number of results

Use a full text search for largest number of results

Use a subject search to get specific items on your topic

Check the database for subject terms, different databases may use different subject terms. For example, in Academic Search Complete if you are searching the topic "young victims of crime", use the subject YOUTH -- Crimes against.

Combined Searching

These strategies can be combined into one search, as in the example below. Note order does matter when using multiple Boolean operators. In general use "OR" before "AND," or use parentheses if you are only using one search box. Check the database's help guide for the appropriate order.

Combined searching in Academic Search Premier

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