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Undergraduate Research Programs - Humanities: Search Strategies

How should I search in a database?


  • What search strategies were mentioned?
  • How do you search when you need to find information?
  • Share

* from Northeastern Illinois University

Search Strategy

Search Topic: I am interested in finding out more about whether there is a relationship between health disparities and language.

Based on the search above, do the options below use search strategies correctly?  Could they be improved?

Search A:

“health disparities” AND “health”

Search B:

language OR "human activity"

Search C:

"language" OR Spanish OR English


"health disparities"

Search D:

"health disparities" OR "preventable differences"




language* OR cultur*

Search Tips

A. Boolean Operators

OR is mORe (joins similar terms)  e.g. cognitive OR brain

AND is less (joins dissimilar terms) e.g. memory AND music

Sample Search Using both AND and OR

"memory loss" OR memory


"classical music"

B. Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to search for a phrase

  • "social identity"
  • "transfer student"
  • "War on Drugs"

C. Truncation

Use a symbol, the asterisk * is the most common, to look for variant endings of a word

  • dispar* will search for disparity, disparities, etc.
  • Shakespeare* will search for Shakespeare, Shakespeare's, Shakespearean, etc.

Search Terms are Important

Keywords vs. Subjects

keywords vs subjects chart