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WRT 101 - Desert Vista - Search Strategies and More: Search Strategy Using the Databases

Key Word Searching

State Your Topic as a Question:

  • For example, if you are interested in finding out about how sanctuary cities help immigrants, phrase your question: "How do sanctuary cities protect immigrants?
  • Identify the Keywords in your question. Here they are sanctuary cities, protect* and immigrants.

Too Much Information? 

  • If you are finding too many sources, narrow your topic by using the "and" operator.

For example: "sanctuary cities" and immigrants and protect*

Too Little Information?   

  • You may need to broaden your topic or perhaps select a different one. Broaden your topic by linking similar words with the "or" operator.

Boolean Operators

The use of "and", "or" and "not" involves Boolean searching and can expand or narrow your search as follows:

The following Ebsco Host table illustrates the operation of Boolean terms:

And Or Not
Each result contains all search terms. Each result contains at least one search term. Results do not contain the specified terms.
The search heart and lung finds items that contain both heart and lung. The search heart or lung finds items that contain either heart or items that contain lung. The search heart not lung finds items that contain heart but do not contain lung.




Special Search Strategy

Truncation: *

  • The asterisk * is a common symbol used to represent any number of letters at the ends of words

  • Helps find singulars, plurals, and variant endings of words

  • Example: docu* finds documents, document, documentation, documented


  • Most databases let you limit search results. Some limiters include:

    • Language  

    • Publication type..such as Peer-Reviewed or Scholarly Journals.

    • Date of Publication

Phrases: " "

  • Enclose phrases in quotation marks when searching the Web or most databases. 

  • From Ebsco Help: "When your search string includes phrases, the default search order is that phrases are searched in the order in which they are typed in and with the words right next to each other. It is recommended that phrases be enclosed in quotations marks when included in searches. Phrase searching in individual databases may vary." 

  • Example: "sanctuary cities"

  • Example: "federal government"

Apply Related Words Selection:

      Some databases provide a "Apply Related Words" selection box, similar to Truncation: 

  • "Apply related words - Select this option to expand results to include true synonyms and plurals of your terms. 

    Example: A search for Neoplasm with the Apply Related Words expander applied would also search for Tumor, Tumour, Tumors, Tumor's, Tumours, and Tumour's. "