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Environment and Sustainability: Using Library Resources

Creating a Search Strategy

Now that you have looked carefully at your research topic/question, you are ready for some tips on how to connect your search terms to build a search strategy. After completing this tutorial, you will be familiar with Boolean operators and a number of search tips which will allow you to build a search string in a database search box.

As a side note, here is a description of where you will be searching to find journal articles:


  1. contain information from published works
  2. are searchable
  3. provide either citation information or full-text articles
  4. can be subject/topic specific or multidisciplinary

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are small words used to connect main concepts and related terms in a database search box. These little words are AND, OR, and NOT.

AND: Use AND to connect different concepts.

undefinedAND will narrow your search. For example, searching for

"forest management" AND "boreal forest"

will result in articles and other sources that contain both terms. In the Venn diagram, A is "forest management" and B is "boreal forest." The intersection of the two, where they overlap, represents the results you would get back from a database search: articles that contain both terms, not just one or the other.




OR: Use OR to connect synonyms and related terms.

Using OR will expand your search. Use OR to join together related terms that refer to the same concept, creating one larger concept. For example, you could search for

"boreal forest" OR taiga

and your results list will include all papers that contain the first term, the second term, or both together. As the Venn diagram suggests, A is "boreal forest" and B is taiga. both circles are completely shaded, meaning that the results will include both terms, whether they are both included in the paper or not.



NOT: Use NOT to exclude a term

undefinedNOT will exclude a term from your search. For example, you could search for

aids NOT hearing

and your results will include only articles that contain the terms aids. Excluding hearing will assist with getting more precise results.

More Search Tips

Here are a few tips for searching databases. Most databases will use these shortcuts.

  • Quotation Marks

Using quotation marks (" ") around a phrase will ensure that you will find the exact phrase and not just single terms.

Example: "boreal forest" "forest management" "sustainable forest management"

  • Truncation

This tip uses an asterisk (*) to find additional beginnings and endings of words.

Example: *carbon* will return articles with carbon, hydrocarbon, polycarbonate, etc.

                supplement* will bring back supplement, supplements, supplemented, etc.

  • Wildcard

This tip uses a question mark (?) to find alternate spellings of a word.

Example: searching for colo?r will bring back results with color and colour