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Writing 100 (Maharaj): Topics and Terms

Google Spreadsheet Link

Please click on the link below to access the Google spreadsheet for this session.

Search Strategies

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to search for a phrase

  • "scientific writing"
  • "social media"
  • "definitional issue"


Use a symbol (* is the most common) to look for variant endings of a word

  • educat* will search for education, educator, educating, etc.
  • colleg* finds college, collegium, collegial
  • politic* will search for politic, politics, political, politicly, etc.


Connect from off-campus through the VPN (Virtual Private Network) in order to view ebooks, online articles etc.

Search Strategies

Once you have some keywords associated with your topic AND you have found appropriate search tools/databases, you are ready to begin searching.  Here are some basic search strategies to consider.

1. Look for a phrase by using quotation marks.  This will make your search more specific.  e.g. "professing literature"; "civic engagement"

2. Generate more results by joining synonyms or closely related terms together with OR.  Remember OR means mORe.
Example: feminist OR women OR gender

3. Narrow results by adding dissimilar terms with AND.
Example: "literature review" AND definition

4. Use the asterisk (in many search tools) to truncate a term. This will look for different endings of the same word. e.g. defin* will search for define, defines, definition, definitive, etc.

5. Once completing a search, scan the results for other terms or phrases you may not have initially discovered.  e.g. Searching for behavior principles may bring up cultural sensitivity.

6. View Subjects if available.  These may also be called descriptors.  These subjects are assigned to describe the citation/article. For example a descriptor in Academic Search Complete is Capitalism & Ecology.

Controlled Vocabulary

Databases use controlled vocabulary to index or tag articles and books. Successful searching is dependent on discovering what those words (terms) are.

Some databases have tools to help you find the controlled vocabulary terms. These terms usually include definitions.  For example -->