Search Strategies for Research four methods

Searching through databases can take you on a long, circuitous route.

Create a breadcrumb trail for yourself, taking notes on the databases you enter and the search terms you try out.

Brainstorm key words from your thesis statement.

Identify major concept terms.

Think of synonyms and other variations.


Truncation is a strategy for expanding your search results. Drop the ending of keywords and place an asterisk (*) next to the root word to find all variations. For example, environment* will find environment, environmental, environmentalism, etc.

Search term connectors AND, OR, and NOT allow you to combine terms.

To focus your search, and combine different aspects of your topic, use AND: hydrogen and car and environment will find articles with all three of those keywords.

To expand your search and find different word variations, use OR: car or cars or automobile or vehicle will find articles with any of those keywords.

Sometimes your search will bring up some irrelevent results. For example, Leonardio DiCaprio is known for driving an environmentally friendly car, but articles about DiCaprio aren't what you're looking for. To tell a database to discard certain keywords from your search results, use the word NOT.

Pearl Growing

Pearl Growing is the use of characteristics of a highly relevant and authoritative article, referred to as the "pearl," to search for additional related sources. ProQuest and GALE make this easy for you:

In ProQuest, click on View Related Documents

In GALE, scroll to the bottom of an article for Related Resources

You can also note strong terms within the article to use as new search terms.

Other databases have a list of subject terms at the end of each article.

Good luck on your research!


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