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Search Strategies

Search Strategy Process

Search Strategies Process

Tips for Developing Search Terms

Library resources do not use natural language.

Create a search statement using keywords.

  •  What are the keywords of your research question?
  •  What are the synonyms or other names for these keywords?
  •  What are broader, narrower, or related terms?

Do some sample keyword searches to see if you are finding too much or too little information.

Narrow your search statement by adding a:

  •  geographic region
  •  time frame
  •  population group
  •  culture
  •  discipline

If you are finding too little information, your search statement needs to be broadened. Is it:

  •  too specific?
  •  too recent?


Boolean Operators

Boolean logic defines logical relationships between terms in a search. The Boolean search operators are AND, OR, and NOT. You can use these operators to create a very broad or very narrow search.

Boolean operator venn diagrams

  • AND combines search terms so that each search result contains all of the terms. For example, travel and Europe finds articles that contain both travel and Europe. 
  • OR combines search terms so that each search result contains at least one of the terms. For example, college or university finds results that contain either college or university.
  • NOT excludes terms so that each search result does not contain any of the terms that follow it. For example, television not cable finds results that contain television but not cable.

*,?, ""


Truncation is represented by an asterisk (*). To use truncation, enter the root of a search term and replace the ending with an *. The database will then find all forms of that word.

For example, type comput* to find the words computer or computing or computation, etc.  Type teen* to find the words teen or teenage or teenager or teenaged, etc.

Note: The Truncation symbol (*) may also be used between words to match any word.

For example, a midsummer * dream will return results that contain the phrase, a midsummer night’s dream.


The wildcard is represented by a question mark (?) and will match any one character.

For example, wom?n will find women or woman or womyn.


Use quotation marks (") to bind terms as phrases.

For example, "Io Triumphe" will return results where the words appear together as a phrase.


Too Many Results?

Limiters or filters let you narrow the focus of your search so that the information retrieved from the databases you search is limited according to the values you select. You can use more than one limiter if more than one is available.

Popular limiters/filters:

Material or resource type - journal article, book, video, etc.

Language - English, etc.

Full text - limit results to full text only

Journal type - limit results scholarly, peer-reviewed, etc.

Publication date - limit the date range (i.e., last five years, specific date, etc.)

Lay vs. Trade vs. Scholarly Publications. What's the Difference?

What is lay or popular literature?

Popular Literature

Layman- is a person who does not belong to a particular profession or who is not expert in some field.

Lay literature is written for the non-expert, or non-professional.


  • Newspaper article
  • Article from a magazine
  • Article from most websites 

What is professional/trade literature?

Trade Journals

Professional literature is written for professionals in a field.


  • Literature put out by professional societies
  • Government reports
  • Trade journals
  • Publications by companies 

What is scholarly literature?

Scholarly Journals

Scholarly literature is written for experts and researchers.

  • Heavily cited in the form of either footnotes or bibliographies
  • Often peer-reviewed
  • Organization based on Scientific Method
  • Format designed to communicate research results to others in field
  • Standard format allows easy comparison

Identifying Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Resources

Check out this easy to understand video on primary, secondary, and tertiary sources created by Suffolk County Community College Library.