Skip to Main Content


A Library Subject Guide

Search Tips for Cybersecurity

Searching Basics

 4 simple strategies for effective database searches:

  1. Start with a Basic Search Using AND

Think about the main ideas in your research question. For example, in the question,"What role does malware play in cyberwarfare?" the main ideas are: malware and cyberwarfare.

These keywords can be used in your search statement:

malware AND cyberwarfare

When you use AND, you are asking the database to find both terms in articles you retrieve.

If you can't think of any keywords, try a simple search in a database related to your topic. You can find keywords that you can use to improve your search in the abstracts and subject terms given for useful articles in your results.

2. Expand Your Search Using OR 

If you do not find enough useful articles, expand your search by using OR to include additional, related keywords:

(malware OR spyware) AND cyberwarfare

Look through the subject terms, title, and abstract of useful articles you find for keywords related to those that you have used - then try connecting them using OR as shown above. This will often locate useful articles missed in your first search.

3. Expand Your Search Using Truncation

Many databases allow you to use "*" (an asterisk) to truncate a term. Truncating allows you to search for all variations of a word using a single search. For example, a search for ...


... will find articles containing "cyberwar" "cyberwars" "cyberwarfare", and related words with one search. Broadening a search like this can help you find more useful articles.

4. Exclude Words With NOT

NOT lets you exclude words from your search to remove unhelpful articles from your results:

cyberwar* AND cost* NOT (simulation* OR game*)