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Writing 10 (Ruiz): Search Strategies

Reading & Composition

Setting Up a Successful Search

The words you type into the search box affect your search results. Not all authors use the same language to describe similar topics, so you will need to try a variety of searches.

  • Create a list of possible words that could appear in a book or article related to your topic of interest.
  • Come up with synonyms or related terms for those.
  • Stick to using 2-4 nouns when searching.


Under what set of circumstances did the Black power movement begin to consider the oppression of black women?
Keywords Alternatives
"Black women"

"African-American women"


"black feminism"

"gender rights"

"gender equality"

"gender inequality"


"Black power movement"

"Black power"

"Black nationalism"

"Brainstorming Keywords" Video


Portland State University Library (2:39)

There are a number of ways you can combine your keywords. You can also search for phrases by enclosing them in quotation marks.

Boolean Operators Phrase Searching

Join together search terms in a logical manner.

AND narrows searches and is used to join dissimilar terms.

OR broadens searches and is used to join similar terms

To search for specific phrases, enclose them in quotation marks. The database will search for those words together in that order.

LGBTQ AND "children's books"

LGBTQ OR queer

(LGBTQ OR queer) AND ("children's books" OR "children's literature")

"black feminism"

"gender inequality"

"women of color"



Think of subject terms and headings as hashtags that can point you to more sources with the same tags. Rather than searching by specific words, you can browse by pre-established categories.

When you find a useful book in UC Library Search, look at the record's Library of Congress Subject Headings, which are hyperlinked in blue. Click on one to discover other similarly tagged items or use the headings to give you ideas for terms you can try in a keyword search.


Here are the subject headings for the book From Black Power to Hip-Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism.

Most databases also have tools to help you discover subject terms.



Sometimes, rather than searching for information on a topic, you might be interested in looking for a specific article. There are a few ways you can find items based on a citation.

Article Level Strategies Journal Level Strategies
  • Look for the article title in Google Scholar. For full-text, try clicking on the article title or look under >> for UC-eLinks/ Get it at UC. 
  • Look for the article title inUC Library Search. Look for the Available Online link or request form. 
  • Look in regular Google. You may be able to find on the web IF someone has posted it.
Look for the journal title in the Journal finder. Search for the journal title in the Journals tab on the library home page search box. See if the journal is available. Is the date you need available? If so, drill down to the correct volume and issue number.


Databases have many ways in which you can filter results, such as by language, type of source, dates, and more. Some databases also have a way to limit strictly to peer-reviewed articles, though not every database has this option. Google Scholar and JSTOR, for example, don't have this filter.


Academic Search Complete

Use the Publication Date limiter to filter results by date.


Use the Source Types limiter in your results list to narrow to magazine, newspaper, and/or trade articles.


Check the Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals limiter to narrow results to peer-reviewed articles.