When searching in the library databases, keep the following tips in mind:
When turning your research question into a search statement, make sure to only use the most important concepts from the question.
Example: What are the legal issues surrounding ethnic studies programs in higher education?
Use the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT to link your keywords in a search statement.
Example: Legal AND "ethnic studies" AND "higher education"
*Linking terms with AND will narrow your search results
Video Tutorial: Using Boolean Operator AND
OR: use OR when there are several synonyms or related terms for one of the concepts in your research question. OR tells the database to look for any one of the terms it links, rather than all of them at the same time.
Example: ("higher education" OR colleges OR universities)
*Parentheses must be used around terms linked by OR so the database interprets the search correctly
*Linking terms with OR will expand your search results
Video Tutorial: Using Boolean Operator OR
Example: ("higher education" OR colleges OR universities) NOT "High school"
Using NOT will narrow your results, but use it carefully. It will exclude results that mention a term even once--even if they're not the focus of the article.
Video Tutorial: Using Boolean Operator NOT
The final search statement for the topic above would look something like this:
(law OR legal OR legislation) AND "ethnic studies" AND ("higher education" OR colleges OR universities)
Other Search Tips:
Example: "higher education"
If you type higher education (without quotation marks) into a database, it interprets it like this: higher AND education
It looks for each word, but not necessarily used together. Using quotation marks will search for those words together, in that order, and can drastically reduce the number of search results while improving their relevance.
Video Tutorial: Using Quotation Marks
Example: child/children, psychology/psychological
How to Use: Place the truncation symbol(*) after the common root of the words you want to search for: child* psycholog*
*The truncation symbol is usually an *, but you can check the "Help" section of any database to find out which symbol it uses
Video Tutorial: Using Truncation
How to Use: Place the wildcard symbol(!) in the place of the variable letter in the word: wom!n
*Different databases may use a different symbol for wildcard searching. Check their "Help" pages to make sure you're using the correct symbol.
Video Tutorial: Using Wildcard Searching