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Find Your Database(s)!: Search Strategies

Search Strategy

Search Topic: I am interested in finding out more about contaminants in American big city water suppliers.

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

Search A:

“big city” AND water

Search B:

contaminant OR "human activity"

Search C:

contaminant OR pollutant OR toxin


"water quality"

Search D:

"san francisco" OR "los angeles" OR "new york"





Keywords vs. Subjects

keywords vs subjects chart

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

metabolites OR hydrocarbons



B. Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to search for a phrase

  • "heavy metal"
  • "water runoff"
  • "isochron dating"

C. Truncation

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

  • environ* will search for environment, environments, environmental, etc.
  • assess* will search for assess, assesses, assessment, etc.

Search Terms are Important