The video below discusses searching as strategic exploration that involves trying out different search terms and strategies. Think of your search strategies as a puzzle with has more than one solution!
Good Research Starting Points:
Your search strategies will depend partly on the research tools you use. Search engines like Google tend to be less picky about your terms. However, Google search results also usually require more careful evaluation of source credibility, since it includes a larger number of sources from a wider range of places.
Library databases allow for advanced searching and include high-quality content. They often, however, are more challenging to search than Google. These database search tips will help:
Keywords are search terms that express the essence of your topic. They are crucial to an effective search, especially in library databases.
Video on Choosing & Using Keywords (John M. Pfau Library)
1. Be concise.
Begin with only 2-3 essential terms, and avoid long phrases. The more terms you enter the fewer results you’ll get. (For example, a search for environmental consequences of fracking may yield 0 results, while fracking environment yields over 2,000.)
2. Use synonyms and related terms.
If your first term doesn’t work, try a synonym. You may have to try out several related search terms to find the types of resources you're looking for. (Example: environment INSTEAD OF environmental consequences)
3. Identify keywords with background research.
To identify useful keywords, do some quick background research. Note terms that are often used to discuss the topic. (Reference sources like Wikipedia or the library databases Credo Reference and Britannica Academic offer overviews of many topics. Of course, remember to evaluate information in Wikipedia with particular care since almost anyone can edit it.)
4. Identify keywords from search results.
Do a quick database search and view the search results page to identify relevant terms.
5. Combine search terms.
In most databases you can refine results using the search functions AND, OR, and NOT.
Too few results? Ways to narrow a search include:
More search tips for broadening or narrowing a search.
Rethink your search strategy. This video may help.