Basic Search Tips
One of the easiest and most effective things you can do to improve your search results is to improve your search terms.
Don’t just type your entire research question/topic into the database or catalog search box! Only enter the most important terms in your research topic. These are called keywords, and most search systems are designed to provide results for certain keywords, not whole questions or phrases.
For example, if your research topic is “how to get financial aid for college,” good keywords are financial aid and college. You don’t the “how to get” part to get good search results. Similarly, if your topic is “public school food: what is served and how can we make it more nutritious,” good keywords are public schools, food, and nutrition.
Advanced Search Tips
Often a simple search with well-chosen keywords will provide you with the results you need. But, sometimes you need to do a more advanced search, depending on your topic and your search terms. Here’s how:
- Use an asterisk(*) to search for all variants of a word. Ex: nutrit* = nutrition, nutritious, nutrient, nutrients
- Put phrases in quotes. Ex: “financial aid”
- Use OR (in all capital letters) to include synonyms in your search. Ex: scholarships OR loans
- Use AND (in all capital letters) to narrow your search to a specific topic. Ex: nutrition AND child development
- Use the search limiters that most databases provide to get the results you need: in Academic Search Premier, for example, you can check a box to get only articles that are full text or scholarly (peer reviewed). You can also use the date limiter to see results from a specific date range.