The most important part of your search is deciding on the words you will use to search with. These words are commonly referred to as keywords or search terms.
If you are not searching for a specific title or author, think about the key concepts of your search. For example, if your topic is "how television violence affects children" you might search for: television, violence, children.
It's also helpful to think about synonyms for your keywords. For example, if you were searching for something on teens and drinking, you might also use the words: adolescence, adolescents, teenagers, young adults, alcohol, alcohol abuse, and so on.
Boolean operators are used to connect search terms in ways that narrow or broaden your search. There are three commonly used Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT.
This is a diagram of a search using AND. If you search for cat AND dog, you will only get results that include information about both cats
and dogs. Using AND is a good way to narrow your search.
This is a diagram of a search using OR. If you search for cat OR dog, you'll get any information that mentions either cat or dog. This is a good way to broaden your search.
This is a diagram of a search using NOT. If you search for cat NOT dog, you'll only get results about cat, and no results about dog. This is another good way to narrow your search.
Computer databases are very literal. Every keyword that is entered into a search must appear exactly as typed. Of course, sometimes words have different spellings, and there are different forms of the word, such as singular and plural forms and different suffixes. If you choose the wrong tense of a verb or the variant spelling of a keyword, you could miss relevant records.
One way to ensure retrieving all variations of a word is to use truncation or wildcards. Most databases have symbols that can be used to truncate or add wildcards to keyword searches. The symbol used by the databases may vary, therefore you will need to check the Help screens to determine which symbols are used. Common truncation/wildcard symbols are: *, ?, #, $, + and !.