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Graduate Student Resources: Search Strategies

Search library databases like a pro!

Brock University Libraries search strategies tutorial:

Developing Search Strategies

1.  Identify key concepts. 

Eg.   Are annual flu shots effective in preventing the flu?

2.  Brainstorm for keywords.

Identify synonyms for each of your concepts.  Eg. flu influenza

3.  Put your keywords together with boolean operators and add truncation symbols (see below).

4.  Look at the search tips or help file for your database.

5.  Enter your search terms into your database or search engine.

6.  Examine your results and revise your search terms if necessary.





Constructing Your Search Strategy with Boolean Operators

All databases use boolean operators. Many databases like Google add the AND operator automatically between words. However, some databases require your to add a boolean operator. You should always check the search help or search tips page in the database that you are searching.

1) Constructing a search strategy using your own keywords is the first step to filter and scoop the right amount of potential sources for your screening. Let's review boolean logic using AND, OR, and NOT operators to construct potential search strategies.

AND, OR, NOT Operators


Truncation Symbols

Truncation symbols allow you to search for different endings of a word to find singular or plural forms of a word, present tense, past tense etc.). 

In most databases the truncation symbol is the asterisk (*).  The help pages for the database will indicate the symbol used as for truncation.

Eg.  vaccin* will find vaccinate, vaccination, vaccine, vaccines



Refining Your Search

Many databases offer some criteria or options to further limit your search results. 


1) PubMed offers a list of criteria to limit your search. Look for options on the left hand side of the screen.

PubMed Limit menu


2) Scopus will display a list of refine options on the left hand side of the screen after you have performed an initial search.

Scopus Refine options