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**Research Basics**: Search Strategies

Easy to follow guide on how to do research step by step, from start to finish. Choosing and researching a topic, using library materials, finding books and articles, search strategies, evaluating information and more!

Keyword Searching in a Database

It is important to map out how you will go about searching for research materials on your topic prior to beginning your search. Here is an example of a search strategy worksheet [PDF] that you may find helpful as you read through this page.

Steps for Creating a Search Strategy

1. Summarize your topic
2. Identify main concepts (keywords)
3. Identify synonyms, alternate words and/or related words
4. Try different combinations of keywords

Example: How does exposure to smokers affect children who have asthma?

What are the main concepts or keywords?
.....smoking, children, asthma

Think of synonyms, alternate words or/and related words.
.....secondhand smoke, smokers..... toddler, pediatric, child .... allergies, breathing problems

Develop your search strategy using the terms above.

Mix and match terms. If one keyword doesn't work, try to vary your keywords with synonyms.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators help to narrow or broaden your search. The most useful are AND, OR, NOT which help to connect keywords or concepts.


You can use more than one Boolean connector in the same search statement:

  • Depression AND Teenagers OR Adolescents

You should have a research topic and a list of some keywords as well as a search strategy. Next, let's find books, articles and other materials to use in our research project!

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Primary vs Secondary Sources

Tips for Effective Searching