Tips to Maximize Relevant Search Results in Databases
Databases will work best for you when you create search statements. This section will discuss tips and tricks to creating search statements to maximize relevant search results in databases.
Search Statements, Keywords, and Search Tools
A search statement combines keywords and search tools to refine your results.
Keywords are terms (words or phrases) used to search online catalogues, electronic databases, and the Internet (yes, this means Google!). To identify keywords, frame your topic into a question and select the most important concepts or ideas. These are the keywords that you will combine with search tools to create your search statement.
Search tools are tools used to combine keywords to enhance your search statement. Search tools include:
- Boolean operators
- AND - combines your search terms
- e.g. "College" AND "research"
- OR - use this to retrieve results where the same thing can be described using different terms.
- e.g. "College" OR "university"
- NOT - use this to eliminate a keyword or phrase from your results.
- Say you want to research college athletes; one way to do this would be to type "Athletes" NOT "Professional"
- Quotation marks
- Use quotation marks to indicate a phrase, e.g. "social media"
- Use an * (asterik) to search for the root of a word with varying endings.
- e.g. Math* will retrieve the following terms: math, maths, mathematician, mathematicians, mathematic, mathematics, et cetera
Putting it all Together
Keywords and search tools will help you in creating search statements that will retrieve relevant results for your research. Remember, authors can use various terms to mean the same thing, so always brainstorm synonyms to utilize in your search statements.
Sample research question: How has US foreign policy regarding Russia changed from the Bush administration to the Obama administration?
Search statements for this research question might look like:
"Foreign policy" AND "Obama" AND "Russia"
"Foreign Policy" AND "Bush" AND "Russia"
("Foreign Policy" OR "International relations") AND "Russia" AND "United States"