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:
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.
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
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!
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.
Note: When executing a search, And takes precedence over Or.
The following table illustrates the operation of Boolean terms: