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Writing 101 (Wilson)

What Should I Search For?

You will need to think of words to search for in the databases so the database can give you good results. The database will return results that match what you tell it to find.


Break down the parts of your topic and identify the most important ones. Then determine what the databases might call these topics. For example:

What is the effect of stereotypes on treatment for mental illness?

Stereotypes = stereotype, stereotypical, cliches, myths, gender, race, etc.

Mental illness = "mental health," depression, schizophrenia, etc.

Treatment = therapy, medication, loxapine etc.


A search might be:

(stereotyp* OR cliche*) AND "mental illness" AND therap*

1) AND/OR (Boolean Logic)

Use AND / OR to join search terminology.

  • OR - joins similar terms / terms that get at the same issue BROADENS
  • AND - joins dissimilar terms NARROWS

Examples: Using OR

  1. students OR "college students"
  2. "screen time" OR "computer use" OR technology
  3. nutrition OR food OR health

Examples: Using AND

  1. "family history" AND illness
  2. depression AND genetics AND outcomes

Examples using AND & OR

Sample Search 

treatment OR therapy


"childhood trauma"


2) Phrase Searching " "

It is common to search for a specific phrase with "quotation marks ".  Most databases will recognize the using of quotation marks to search for two works together.

Examples: " "

  • "post traumatic stress disorder"
  • "limbic system"
  • "social anxiety"
  • "early intervention"
  • "park prescription programs"

Phrase Searching Narrows

  • social anxiety (52553 results in PsycInfo)
  • "social anxiety" (7013 results in PsycInfo)


3) Truncation *

Search for alternate forms of a work by truncating it and adding an asterisk *.

Examples: *

  1. trauma* > trauma, traumas, traumatic
  2. investigat* > investigate, investigation, investigator
  3. perform* > perform, performs, performing, performance
  4. therap* > therapy, therapies, therapeutic

Truncation BROADENS

  • trauma AND "mental health" AND child* (12,636 results in PsycARTICLES)
  • trauma* AND "mental health" AND child* (13,836 results in PsycInfo)