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Quantitative & Systems Biology 251 (Manilay)

Generating Keywords

Keywords are typically the terms or phrases that encapsulate one idea or facet of your research topic. There is no perfect way to search for resources. You may need to put together multiple searches to retrieve enough relevant information. 

When looking at your research topic. It can be helpful to make a list of key terms and their synonyms. Your search will compare those terms against the content found in the database you use, the words and phrases in each article. 

The more you read, the easier searching will be. 

Things to consider:

  • The subject of your research
  • Methodology
  • Mechanisms of action

You can be as specific as you need to be. Each new search term or phrase is adding context, refining, your search. 

Phrase Searching


" "

To search for specific phrases, enclose them in quotation marks. The database will search for those words together in that order.


“Boise basin”

"property ownership"

"19th century"

Boolean Operators (AND/OR)



Join together search terms in a logical manner.

AND - narrows searches, used to join dissimilar terms

Sample Searches Using AND:

Search #1
farming AND drought


Search #2




Boolean Operator (OR)



Join together search terms in a logical manner.
OR - broadens searches, used to join similar terms

Sample Searches Using OR/AND:

Search #1
wages OR salary


Search #2


policies OR regulation OR legislation


"San Francisco"


Search #3

violence OR fight


strike OR walkout




Truncate a word in order to search for different forms of the same word. Many database use the asterisk * as the truncation symbol.


Truncate the word econom* and you will search for economy, economic, economics, economical etc.

Add the truncation symbol to the word politic* to search for politics, political, politician,  etc.