ENGL 1106 Richoux: Search

Selecting Keywords

Selecting Keywords 

Think about any time recently where you have searched for information.  You may have been looking for something for school, or you may have been looking up something like movie times at the Lyric.  Where did you go for this information?  I'm betting you went to Google (hey, that's where I usually start when I have a question)!  Next, think about what you typed in as you searched for your information.  Perhaps it was something like "show times at the Lyric in Blacksburg, VA."  While typing in a whole sentence or statement like this works in Google, this strategy doesn't work as well in library databases.  

Library databases work best when you choose a few words that represent or describe the information that you're looking for.  That way, the databases can try to find articles that match up with the words that you've entered into the database.  

But, how do you know which words to choose, and how many you should use to search with?  



Truncation and Wildcards


A symbol, specific to the search interface, which allows the retrieval of all endings for the specified base word. An asterisk (*) is often used. For example,  child* would retrieve records with children, childish, and every other word that begins with the root word "child."


A symbol, specific to the search interface, which allows the retrieval of various spellings of a word. A questio mark is often used.  For example, wom?n would retrieve records with women or woman.  

Read more about these sorts of tricks

Example Boolean search statements using symbols

  • (Calcium AND milk) NOT goat
  • child* AND anxiety AND (exercise OR physical activity)

See our tutorial about developing search statements.

AND, OR, NOT - The Boolean Operators

AND, OR, and NOT
Now that you've come up with a list of keywords that might describe the information or ideas that you're hoping to find in the library databases, you need to think about how you will combine these terms in order for the databases to be able to understand what you want.  Databases use something called Boolean logic, which basically means that you need to use specific words to combine your keywords in order to get the best results.  AND, OR, and NOT are the words most commonly used to combine keywords--they are called Boolean operators.  Using Boolean operators can help you create a very efficient search.