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Writing 101 (Webb): Basic Search Strategies

Writing in the Disciplines: Psychology


Use a truncation symbol (the asterisk * is the most common) to look for different word endings.

  • educat* = education, educator, educated, etc.
  • colleg* = college, colleges, etc.

You do have to be careful with truncation. Sometimes you might get unexpected results.

  • minor*= minor, minors, minority, minorities, etc.

Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to search for a phrase (two words or more).

  • college students
  • “mental health”
  • generalized anxiety disorder


Use AND to join dissimilar terms. It helps narrow your search.

  • "college students" AND stress

Use OR to join similar terms. It helps broaden your search.

  • “college students” OR undergraduates

Use AND and OR together, too.

  • (“college students” OR undergraduates) AND stress

Note: When inputting your search in one line, the parentheses keep the like terms together. Putting your search in one line makes it a bit easier to copy and paste between databases.

Online Research: Tips for Effective Search Strategies