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ENG 103 FYS Writing Lab (Turner-Reed): Search Strategies


Now that you have some experience searching the catalog and EBSCO databases, let's take a look at some strategies that will improve your searches and help you find useful books and articles. See the boxes below to learn more about keyword searching, Boolean searching, and using subject headings to focus your search. You'll also find a downloadable worksheet for deriving keywords from your topic and brainstorming for synonyms.

Keyword Searching




Brainstorm for keywords

  • Describe your topic in one or two sentences.
  • What are the main concepts/keywords?
  • What are some synonyms for your keywords?
  • Combine keywords with Boolean Operators (see box to the right) for a more effective search

Note: Click the image to the left to go to the live page for "success." You can click on any of the words for more synonyms.


Subject Headings

Find subject headings in the online catalog:

  • Use keywords to find a good resource
  • Click on the title
  • Look at Contents and Summary for additional keywords
  • Use Subjects to focus your search









Click image to enlarge

Find subject headings in EBSCO databases:

  • Use keywords to find a good article
  • Click on the title
  • Click Detailed Record icon on the left side of the screen
  • Look at Author Supplied Keywords and the abstract for additional keywords
  • Use Subject Terms to focus your search


Click image to enlarge

Use advanced search:

  • Combine subject terms to focus your search even further
  • If available, use a drop down box to search by subject
  • Use quotation marks to search a subject phrase


Boolean Searching

Using Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) with your keywords will help you narrow or expand your results.

The highlighted middle section represents the use of AND. Searching for poverty AND addiction will give you results with both words present. Therefore, your results are fewer.

Using OR between similar keywords will give you results that include both words. Therefore, your results are greater. A search for teenagers OR adolescents will retrieve either or both terms.

The NOT operator gives you results from only one of your words. Therefore, your results are fewer. Searching for addiction NOT alcohol will eliminate alcohol from the results.

Click images to enlarge

Search Strategies Video

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies

Video by Sarah Clark

Note: Click the icon in the bottom right corner to maximize video.

Keyword Searching Worksheet