Skip to Main Content

Undergraduate Research: Search Strategies

Undergraduate Research Services Librarian

Profile Photo
Amanda MacDonald
560 Drillfield Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061
Office: Newman Library 3043

Finding Books in the Library

Developing Keywords

From Keywords to Database Search

Advanced Search Strategies

Truncation: Truncation can simplify your search and even help to catch keywords you may not have thought of. Truncation shortens a word to its root to catch variants of the root word.  Let's say that your search statement included the word child. Searching for child* would bring back results including child, children, child's, children's, childlike, and childless. While not all of these would be relevant to your search, the majority of them are. Truncation can be used only at the end of a word. Some terms are more appropriate choices for truncation than others. For example, searching for vet* would bring back vet, vet's, veteran, veteran's, veterans, veterinarian, veterinarians, veterinarian's, and veterinarians'. If you were interested only in research on veterans, veteran* would be a better truncation than vet*

Quotation marks: When your search includes a phrase, pay attention to your results list to see if the database is finding results with the phrase only, or if it is separating the parts of the phrase and returning results that don't seem relevant to your topic. For instance, you may be interested in sensory processing disorder, but in your results, you notice than in addition to articles on sensory processing disorder, you've got results on other disorders or sensory conditions because the database is searching for your terms individually as well as together. To avoid this problem, you can put quotation marks around the phrase you're searching for in order to find only those terms together in that order.