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Writing 114 (Mele): Key Words & Search Strategies

Environmental Writing

Search Process

 Identify your key concepts and related  terms.

 Example: I am interested in what  ecosystem services pollinators  provide.

 Select appropriate search tools and/or  sites.

 Databases > Subject > e.g. Natural  Science > General Databases

 Construct a search.  Start with keyword  searching. Could be simple or using  AND/Or (Boolean Operators).  Join  similar terms with OR. Join dissimilar  terms with AND

 "ecosystem services" AND  (pollinators OR pollination)

 Skim citation and abstract information   to determine the usefulness of the  source.  Viewing an introduction or  conclusion can be helpful too.  Sometimes a snippet in available on  the results lists.  You may have to  click on the article titles, or click on a  preview to see the abstract.
 Revise search as needed.  Too many or  too few results?  Is this a suitable search  tool?  Am I retrieving relevant results?  "ecosystem services" AND  (pollinators OR pollination) AND  (honeybees OR "honey bees")
 Consider searching for certain terms in  specific fields. e.g. Title field

 honeybees OR "honey bees" (Title)  AND "habitat diversity" (All Fields)

 Use options to Limit or Refine e.g. by  Date or Document type (original  research  articles, review articles ...)  e.g. Science Direct > Advanced  Search > Journals tab > has a Limit  by Document Type section
 Find a highly relevant article and look for  "Related Articles".  e.g. on full record in Science Direct,  see "Related Articles" box at right
 View bibliographies for references to  other resources or organizations.    Search for the known item or known  organization.  e.g. I found a references in an article  to this citation: Kremen, C., N. M. Williams, R. L.  Bugg, J. P. Fay, and R. W. Thorp. 2004. The area  requirements of an ecosystem service: Crop pollination  by native bee communities in California. Ecology  Letters 7:1109–1119.

Identify Key Concepts and Terms

Identify the key concepts in your topic: How can precious metals in cell phones be recycled more effectively?

Brainstorm for related terms:

"precious metals"
"rare earth elements"
"rare metals"

"cell phones" 
mobile phones

urban mining

Try Academic Search Complete > Subject Terms to find subject headings for your topic.

Search Tips

Quotation Marks

  • Use "quotation marks" to search for a phrase
    • "environmental impact"
    • "climate change" 

Controlled Vocabulary & Subject Headings

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 -->

Credo Mind Map Tool