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Library Basics: Narrowing and Broadening Your Topic!

Selected resources for choosing a topic and searching the databases

Search Techniques: Developing A Research Strategy

Search Tips


  • Commonly used as an asterisk (*) depending on databases and applied after the root of a word will search for all version of that word. 
  • Example: Child* will search for the terms: Child, children, childlike, childless, etc.   variant spellings colo?r retrieves  color, colour


  • Use parentheses to nest query terms within other query terms.
  • You can enclose search terms and their operators in parentheses to specify the order in which they are interpreted. Information within parentheses is read first, then information outside parentheses is read next
  •  Example: (Older adults OR elderly) AND pneumonia

Phrase/Quotation marks: 

  • Use quotation marks to keep terms together, such as in a phrase. This will eliminate separate searches for individual terms in a phrase.
  • Example:Kidney failure "kidney failure" will search this phrase and only produce results with this phrasing. 


  • Typically located on the left side of a database, limiters can help to eliminate or reduce unwanted results. 
  • Common limiters include: Peer reviewed, date, type of resource

Synonyms/Alternative terms:

  • Synonyms can expand your search results.
  • Just as different people have different terms for common objects, topic with different terms may indexed differently in adatabases
  • Example: Older adults may be referred to as elderly or geriatric in various articles. 
  • You can expand your search terms by reviewing the "Keywords" or "Search terms" identified in various articles which match your research. 
  • The Boolean OR is used between synonyms. The database will then produce results which contain any or the terms. 

Choose where to search

Evaluate Results: revise your search strategy several times to create best results.

  • Too many - add more terms,  use limiters, saerch in title, abstract
  • Too few results - check spelling, change or remove concepts, try alternative keywords, databases etc.