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Research Skills for First-Year Seminars (FSEMs): Search Tips

Using Keywords

The most common way to search a database is by typing some keywords and clicking "Search"but selecting the right keywords can be more challenging than you think.

How do you choose the right keywords? Watch this video.

Searching Made Easier

Once you have identified your keywords, you may want to narrow your search results, expand your results, or exclude certain keywords. Adding these conjunctions can help!



  • NARROW your results
  • tells the database that ALL search terms must be present in the search records
    • Example: sugar AND obesity AND mice


  • EXPAND your results
  • tells the database that ANY of your search terms can be present in the resulting records
    • Example:  "Individualized Education Plan" OR IEP
    • Example:  rats OR mice


  • EXCLUDE words from your search
  • tells the database to ignore terms or concepts
    • Example:  cyclone NOT hurricane

Enclose phrases, proper names, and titles with quotation marks. This tells the database to find the exact phrase instead of finding those words scattered throughout a document.


  • "Affordable Care Act"
  • "test anxiety"
  • "Thomas Sowell"

Another way to widen your search is to include various word endings and spellings. To do this, enter the root word, then add the appropriate symbol at the end. (Symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #.) The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.


  • child* = child, children, childhood, childish
  • pilot* = pilot, pilots, piloting, piloted