Building Search Strategies
- use the different search fields in databases.
- use Boolean Logic to connect search words.
- use phrase searching, truncation, and wildcard in your search strategies.
- build search strategies.
Before you start to search, you need to brainstorm what words to use to find information
for your topic and to answer your research question. This will save you time and frustration
when you're searching because you will have a list of words to consider when some
It could be a list, an outline, a mind map, or any method that works for you to generate possible search words.
As you are brainstorming, consider narrow and broad words, synonyms, spelling variations,
slang, and regional words. Also think about what words authors would use to create
information for your topic. For example, what words would appear in a journal article
or on a webpage?
This is a good time to think about how to divide your research into manageable portions. Some topics may require you to find information on each segment you want to discuss; one search may not find all the information you need.
A search field is how you search a database. Some databases such as search engines
(e.g. Google, Bing) provide a single search field while others such as library databases
and the catalog provide multiple ones that search specific fields of a record in the
Four most common search fields are:
Some other useful search fields are: ISBN (for books), ISSN (for periodicals), Source, Abstract, People, and Geographic Terms. However, there are many different search fields available depending on the database you use.
When you start searching, use keyword searches. Look at a few of the results that you retrieve that seem relevant to your research. Then, scan the subjects listed.
Which subjects are relevant to your research?
Add those words to your search using the subject search field to focus your search to more relevant information.
Focuses search results and is the default between words even when not typed. For example,
a database searches for global warming as global AND warming.
Global Warming AND Air Pollution will retrieve only results with all four words: global, warming, air, pollution.
Broadens search results and is best used with synonyms, related words, and different
spellings of words.
Global Warming OR Air Pollution will retrieve results will any and all those words.
Global Warming NOT Air Pollution will retrieve results with only Global Warming. No records with Air Pollution will be retrieved.
Phrase Searching is how you can search for an exact sentence or phrase in specific word order rather
than words in random order.
"Global Warming" AND "Air Pollution" will retrieve records with those exact phrases rather than records with any combination of those four words.
Truncation is how you can search for multiple versions of a word without typing in all the different
variations. Start by typing the root of the word, then enter an asterisk (*) at the
end. The database will find all the combinations of that word.
Example, educat* will retrieve records with educate, educates, educating, education, educator, educators . . .
Wildcard is similar to truncation by allowing you to search for multiple spellings without
typing all the variations; however, it only replaces one letter in a word. Type the
word but replace that letter that you want to be wild with a question mark (?).
Example, wom?n will retrieve records with woman and women.
Example, gaming AND (adolescents OR teenagers)
So now you have all the materials to build your search strategy. The number of search
strategies you will need depends on how you break up your research.
For example, if you only need to find the movie times at the local theater, you probably will only need one search strategy. However, more advance research will require you to build multiple search strategies in order to thoroughly understand the topic.
To build a search strategy:
Watch this video created by Western University Libraries to learn more.
|"The Taming of the Shew"||OR||"As You Like It"||Keyword|
In a database, it would look like this:
Click to enlarge image.
use the different search fields in databases.
use Boolean Logic or Operators to connect search words.
use phrase searching, truncation, and wildcard in your search strategies.
build search strategies.
You are ready for Module 4 - Searching the Library Catalog.