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Faculty Academy: Search Strategies

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning - Resources & strategies for the literature review

Key Search Strategies

1) PHRASE SEARCHING use " " quotation marks to search for a phrase

  • e.g. ""educational sociology", "world views"

2) TRUNCATION use an * to look for end variation on a word

  • e.g. reflec* = reflect, reflects, reflecting etc.

3) AND to join dissimilar term

  • e.g. "self reflection" AND pedagog*

4) OR to join similar terms

  • e.g. "self reflection" OR metacognition
  • ​e.g. instruction OR teaching


  • in ERIC (ProQuest)
    • (reflective OR reflection) P/3 student (within 3 words & in order)
    • "multi-disciplinary approach" N/3 teach* (near, any order)
  • in Education Source (EBSCO)
    • "self reflection" W3 sociology (within 3 words & in order)
    • "self reflection" N2 bias (near, any order)

I have used with "tricky" topics. Example:  I want to know more about students' perceptions of sociology.  A search for (attitude OR perception OR view OR opinion) N/2 sociology could bring up phrases such as "attitude about sociology", "perceptions on learning sociology" and "perceptions of sociology".

Using Subject Headings

Use a Thesaurus: Find out the terminology (controlled vocabulary) assigned to citations.   Databases may not use the same subject headings.  You may be able to search a thesaurus or filter on subject terms via facets on a search results page.

  • e.g. SU Exposition (Rhetoric), Communication in Science, Interdisciplinary approach in education

Examples of thesaurus terms in three search tools:

Melvyl Education Source ERIC
Teaching Teams Teaching Teams Team Teaching
College teaching

College teaching

College instruction
Space perception Spatial ability in children Spatial ability
Humanities -- Study and teaching (Higher) Humanities education Humanities instruction
  • EXPLODING a thesaurus term will add that term/phrase and any narrower terms.