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Getting Started with Research @ Reed Library: Search Strategies

It is helpful to think about your search strategy before you start typing into a database or search engine. If you take a little extra time in the beginning, you will increase the amount and quality of relevant information you find. 

Once you have done some preliminary research and have developed a focus, you should start thinking about the keywords that describe your topic. While seemingly straightforward, selecting and combining keywords that will bring back the most relevant information can be a challenge. Brainstorming ahead of time will make the process a lot easier for yourself.

Log in to your e-Services account to learn more about choosing and using keywords:

Log in to your e-Services account for an overview of basic search techniques:

Boolean operators allow you to connect your keywords together in a search to either narrow or broaden your set of results.

The three basic boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT.

Using AND

  • Always Narrows Down (your results)
  • Tells the database that ALL search terms must be present in the record

Ghost AND Scream Venn Diagram (middle section is highlighted)
Using OR

  • Connects two or more similar concepts (synonyms)
  • Broadens your results, tells the database that ANY of those search terms can be present in the record

Ghost OR Scream Venn Diagram (all sections are highlighted)

Using NOT

  • Excludes words from your search
  • Narrows your search down, telling the database to ignore concepts that may be implied by your search terms

Scream NOT Ghost Venn Diagram (scream section is highlighted)Ghost NOT Scream Venn Diagram (ghost section is highlighted)

Log in to your e-Services account for an overview of additional search techniques and tricks for searching in databases:

Truncation (stemming) is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.

  • To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.
  • The database will return results that include any ending of that word. 
  • Example: Educat* = Education, Educational, Educated, Educating, etc.
  • Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #

Wildcards substitute a symbol for one letter of a word.

  • This can be useful for words with various spellings, but still have the same meaning
  • Examples:
    • wom!n = woman, women
    • colo?r = color, colour

Note: Truncation/wildcard symbols vary by database. Check the help screens to find out which symbols are used or ask a librarian for assistance.

Log in to your e-Services account to learn more about refining your search results:

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