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Stage 2: Developing the Search: Organizing Terminology

Organizing Terminology, or, "How to Combine Keywords for the Search"

Once you have generated your list of search terms, you must strategically plan how you would organize them in your databases.

How you organize your search terms will effect the breadth of your search. When organizing, your goal is to use methods that broaden your search while also honing it. This is delicate balance, as you want to capture the relevant literature while eliminating the irrelevant sources.

Here are database search tips from Monash University that will help you apply the information below in different databases.

The following methods are some ways of achieving an efficient and powerful search.

1. Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators (OR, AND, NOT) are used to combine search terms in library databases. For a clear outline of this concept, watch the following video:

In summary, keywords can be combined using "operators", which link keywords with other keywords. The most common Boolean Operators used to link keywords in databases are AND, OR, and NOT.


Be careful when using NOT in your search, as this can potentially exclude relevant references from your search.

SEARCH PLAN  Indicate in your search plan which boolean operators were used between which keywords.

2. Advanced Search Techniques

Using advanced search techniques are used to broaden and focus your search.

To understand how to use advanced search techniques, watch the following video:

Boolean operators and other search techniques may also be combined (examples from McGill University's Boolean Search Tips.

Want practice using boolean logic? Click on the following: Pubvenn - tool to help you practice using booleans


3. Proximity Operators

Proximity searching allows you to search for two or more terms based on how closely they appear in the results.

The following video demonstrates useful examples:


4. Text Mine Subject Headings for Key Concepts

Text mining is a technique which can help you to identify search terms by using software to analyze chunks of text for recurrent words or phrases.

Some free online text mining tools include: