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Search Strategy Worksheet
Use the worksheet above as an exercise to help you:
- Articulate your topic.
- Break down the topic into its main concepts.
- Turn those concepts into search terms.
- Come up with related terms (synonyms, broader and narrower terms).
- Manipulate your search terms with boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT), truncation, and wildcard characters.
- Get optimal results!
This thought process will provide you with strategic options to use when formulating a search or when your search results are not satisfactory, whether you are searching for books in a library catalog, articles in a specialized database, or websites when using Google or any general Internet search tool.
More on search strategy and database searching
Search Strategy Builder
Easy to use tool from the Georgia State University Library. Similar to the Search Strategy Worksheet above, but not as thorough.
Database Search Tips
This guide from the MIT Libraries explains Boolean operators, keywords versus subject terms, truncation & wildcards, fields, phrases, and stop words.
Search Strategy Tips & Tricks
Search Strategy Tips and Tricks
When you find a really good article or book for your topic (whether or not you have immediate access to the complete item):
- If there is a detailed citation or reference to the item (aside from the brief citation or the full text of the item), look at it carefully. Many research databases include assigned subject terms (aka descriptors, subject headings, index terms, controlled terms). Searching using these terms can improve the quaiity of your results, making the search both more targeted and more comprehensive. General keyword searching is not as thorough or as discriminating.
- Look at the items referenced by the author in the bibliography, footnotes, or list of references. You may want to track down some of these items ('follow the bibliography').
- Try searching for other items written by the same author.
- Use a citation analysis tool to follow the article forward in time, that is, find more recent articles or books that cite the one you have at hand. You can do this using the Cited By feature in Google Scholar.
- If the article comes from a journal that is closely related to your topic, browse the tables of contents of other issues of the same journal.
- Don't give up on what may be a really good item just because you don't see a link for the full text! Save the citation and we will help you locate it. Contact a librarian!