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BIOL 342 (Carberry-Goh) - New Plagues: Search Tips

Keywords and Synonyms

It's important to identify the most important words for your topic - these are your keywords. Then find synonyms and related forms so that you're armed with several different searching options.

Here's an Example:

Research Question: What is the evidence that the death penalty prevents crime?

Keywords: death penalty, prevent, crime

KEYWORD: death penalty

Synonyms
(same MEANING of keyword, but a different word)

Related Forms of Keyword & Synonyms
(same ROOT word,
different form)

 capital punishment

 

 execution

KEYWORD: prevent

Synonyms
(same MEANING of keyword, but a different word)

Related Forms of Keyword & Synonyms
(same ROOT word,
different form)

deter prevention
stop deterrent

KEYWORD: crime

Synonyms
(same MEANING of keyword, but a different word)

Related Forms of Keyword & Synonyms
(same ROOT word,
different form)

murder crimes

 

criminal

You can now try all of these terms while searching.

Boolean Search Operators

Boolean Operator

Search Example

Retrieval Formula

When to use

AND

Obesity

AND

Children

Finds sources containing both terms

This strategy targets your search. Using “and” plus an additional search term will help you narrow down results if you find too much information.

OR

Global Warming

OR

Climate Change

Finds sources containing either one or more search terms

 

This strategy gives you more results. Using “or” is helpful when there is more than one search term (synonyms) for your topic. If you aren’t sure whether you will find better results with one term or a synonym you can use “or” and search for both at once.

NOT

Wolverines

NOT

X-Men

Excludes sources containing the second search term

This strategy makes your search more specific. Using “not” is helpful when your search terms relate to more than one thing and you are likely to find a lot of unrelated information. The “not” operator helps you bypass that unrelated information quickly.

Fine-tuning Your Search

Additional Search Tips

"Phrase search"  - Use quotation marks to search for the exact phrase.

Example: "no child left behind"

Truncation * - Use an asterisk to find variations of a word. An asterisk after the root of the word will find all variations of that word, including singular and plural.

Example: environment* (finds environmental, environmentalist, environmentalism etc.)

(Grouping/Nesting Keywords) - Use parentheses as a way to group all your search terms together.

Example: (teaching or learning) AND communication

Acknowledgments

Materials on this page have been adapted from the Cosumnes River College Library.