Skip to main content

MICDS McCulloch Library: Searching Effectively

Tips for Effective Searches

1.  Use multiple words rather than single keywords

2.  Put phrases in quotation marks to narrow search results.  For example, if you were searching on George Washington, you should put this phrase in quotes otherwise you will get hits relating to anyone named George who lives in Washington. 

3. Truncate your word and use an asterisk after it to pick up all forms of the word.  For example, using the search term, librar*, would expand the search to include the terms, library, libraries, librarian, librarians, library's librarian's, etc. 

4. Use AND, OR or NOT, also called Boolean operators, to help narrow your hits

  •    Influenza AND H1N1.  Hits will contain both search terms, so you will get articles that contain both words.  This choice will narrow your search and you will get less articles because both terms have to be in each article.
  •    Influenza OR H1N1.  Hits will contain just one of the two search terms, so you will get lots of articles because only one of your search terms will be in them.
  •    Jaguar NOT car.   Hits will have the word jaguar in them but will not refer to the automobile.

Generating Key Words

What is a Key Word?

A Key Word is a word that is essential (or key) to understanding or comprehending meaning.
They help you identify and discover:
  • important concepts in your research
  • broader terms or narrower terms to help you expand or narrow your topic
  • search terms to use in databases or in search engines
  • They are often nouns and should be root words.

How many Key Words should I use?

Using more than one Key Word gives you more manageable hits. 
A Key Word can be a synonym of another term.
For example:
  • Otzi or Ice man
  • Swine Flu or H1N1
  • Tsunami or Tidal Wave

Key Words are not...

Common words like water unless it is part of a phrase like bottled water.
Stop words such as:

a, about, an, and, are, as, at, be, by, from, how, I, in, is, it, of, on, or, that, the, this, to, we, what, when, where, which, with, etc.

Where can I find Key Words?

Look in an overview article about your topic. 
Write down words that:
  • Are synonyms for your topic
  • Are in bold
  • Are domain terms
  • Vocabulary words that you don’t know. 

How do I generate great Key Words?

1. Write down the research problem or question.
2. .Underline the key words in your question.
3. Use the most important keywords first.
For Example:
What animals are used for detecting drugs?
Underline animals, detect, drugs
You can also use synonyms such as mammals, finding, narcotics

Using URLs for Effective Searching

Searching for information using just a top level domain

Use Google Advanced Search or type your search term followed by a colon and the domain suffix (for example -cat:.edu)

    .edu    educational institution

    .com   commercial institution

    .net     network

    .biz      business

    .gov     government

    .mil      military

    .info     information

    .mobi   mobile device

    .us, .ca, etc by country