Skip to main content

PSYC 1101 - Nummerdor (Douglasville) - Spring 2018: Search Strategy

Search Strategy

After choosing a topic you need to determine what it is about that topic that you would like to know or to discuss.  Set this up in the form of a statement or question.

When you have your statement/question ready, pick out the words relating to the main points/concepts – the “key” words.  For example:

                Topic:  "Females have brought a positive element to the military."

                Key words:  "female" and “positive” and "military.”

Next, come up with related words/synonyms for each key word in case any of the original key words don’t seem to be working out for the search.  For example:

female military          positive           
woman (women) soldier benefit
girl army good

If any of your key ‘words’ are really a phrase, you’ll need to put quotation marks around them to tell the database that they must stay together in that arrangement.  For example:

                 “World War II”

Change out your search terms (key words/phrases) - mix and match - until you get some results you're satisfied with.

Steps for Searching

Here are some specific steps you can follow....

1. Define your topic. 

      Example - My topic is growing tomatoes in a home garden. 

2. Choose the keywords that describe this topic.

      Example - some of my keywords would be "tomatoes", "garden", and a key phrase might be "growing tomatoes".

3. Determine whether there are synonyms, related terms, or other variations of the keywords that should be included.

      Example - related term: "vegetable gardening"; variation: "tomato"; synonym: "cultivation"

4. Choose where you're going to search

      Example  -  GIL (online book catalog) , GALILEO (scholarly databases), the internet using Google or Bing

5. Check to see if where you are searching requires special functions to search effectively.

      Example -  Some sites require you use Boolean searches.  And sometimes sites require you to put phrases in quotation marks: instead of civil war, you would type "civil war".

5. Evaluate the results. How many hits were returned? Were the results relevant to your query?

      Example - I typed in "tomato" and got all sorts of results that talked about different kinds of tomatoes, and tomato recipes.  That's not what I'm looking for, so I need to add a second word to narrow my search.  I try typing "tomato" and "garden" to see what I get!

6. Refine your search with Limits/Filters. Modify your search if needed - go back to steps 2 and 3 and think of other words, other combinations of words, or create new phrases.

7. Try the same search in other databases!

Key Word Connectors

Boolean Operators connect the search terms together in different ways.

Boolean logic defines logical relationships between terms in a search. The Boolean search operators are and, or and not. You can use these operators to create a very broad or very narrow search.

  • And combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, travel and Europe finds articles that contain both travel and Europe.
  • Or combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, college or university finds results that contain either college or university.
  • Not excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, television not cable finds results that contain television but not cable.

Note: When executing a search, And takes precedence over Or.

The following table illustrates the operation of Boolean terms:


Next Step - Developing a Research Strategy

Used here with permission from University of Rhode Island Libraries under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Floyd Library - 706.295.6318 | Heritage Hall - 706.295.6321 | Cartersville Library - 678.872.8400 | Marietta - 678.915.5010 | Paulding Library - 678.946.1007 | Douglasville Library - 678.872.4237
©2015 Georgia Highlands College |