Choose keywords that represent the main concept(s) of your research topic. Then, as needed:
- Use AND
This will narrow your search, since search results will include only documents that contain all of the words linked by AND.
- Use OR
This will broaden your search, since search results will include documents that contain any of the words linked by OR. Terms linked by OR should be put between parentheses.
- Use quotation marks
This will find documents that contain the exact phrase placed between the quotation marks.
- Use * (an asterisk)
This will find various endings of the word fragment before the *. For example, searching for manage* will find documents containing manager, managers, management, etc. Note that you can use an asterisk in a phrase enclosed in quotation marks.
- Use a proximity operator
A proximity operator tells a database to find documents in which your search terms appear within a certain number of words from each other. Note that different databases use different proximity operators, so you should consult a database's "help" or "search tips" page to see whether the database allows for proximity searching and, if so, which operators it uses.
Sample search: "community college*" AND (retention OR retain*) n10 minorit*
Found too many results?
- Add more keywords, using AND
If you find that you are retrieving too many results, add more keywords to reflect additional concepts of interest related to your topic.
Sample search: "community college*" AND (retention OR retain*) n10 minorit* AND "best practice*"
Found too few results?
- Add more keywords, using OR
If you are having trouble finding enough results, add synonyms or related terms for terms already used in your search statement.
Sample search: ("community college*" OR "junior college*" OR "two-year college*") AND (retention OR retain*) n10 minorit*