Search Strategy: Keywords
Break down your topic or research question into the overall main ideas; these main ideas become simple keywords that you may use to search a library database or search tool. Keep a keyword list when you are researching a topic. This will help you remember the words you have already tried searching, the combinations you have used, and any related terms you noticed in search results to add to a new search.
Consider adding such terms to your search for COVID-19 information and the impact of the pandemic on your topic of interest:
Search Strategy: Boolean Operators
Library databases use Boolean operators to combine keywords in database searches. Operators include AND, OR, NOT to combine keywords and thus broaden or narrow your search results. Here are examples using these operators:
AND - Using the Boolean Operator AND will narrow your search results. In this case, using AND will retrieve search results containing both keywords.
OR - Using the Boolean Operator OR will broaden your search results. In this case, using OR will retrieve search results containing either one of the keyword terms.
NOT - Using the Boolean Operator NOT will narrow your search results. In this case, using NOT will exclude search results containing a term.
Search Strategy: Phrase Searching
Phrase searching narrows your search results by allowing you to define precisely how you want the words to appear. Place quotation marks around your keywords to force the database to search those terms as a phrase.
Be careful when you use phrase searching; if you put too many words in quotation marks, then the database will most likely not find any results. You want to only use phrase searching on established phrases - words that you can reasonably expect other authors to have used.
Examples include the following:
Search Strategies: Nesting
When conducting research, think about your topic idea or concept and how it may be expressed in multiple ways. For example, coronavirus might also be described as COVID, COVID-19, or 2019-nCoV in the literature.
To retrieve the broadest set of search results, you may include variations of your search terms using the nesting approach. Nesting uses parentheses ( ) to keep concepts that are alike together and to tell the database to search for any of the listed terms. Nesting also uses the Boolean operator OR to connect like terms and the Boolean operator AND to connect the like terms to the rest of the search.
For example, in the nested searches below, the database will yield results with any of the words listed in the first set of parentheses but will also include results with additional keyword terms connected with AND:
Rather than running multiple searches with individual keyword terms, nesting allows you to maximize your search efforts by retrieving results containing a combination of words.
Search Strategies: Field Codes
Searching in a database using different fields can be a powerful way to narrow your results. A field is a specific part of a record in a database. Common fields that can be searched include the following: author, title, subject, and abstract.
When using the Advanced Search screen in Roadrunner Search and databases, look for drop-down boxes or menus to select the field you want to search. Multiple fields may be combined using Boolean operators. The default field for most databases may be called ‘keyword’ or ‘anywhere’. By keeping this default, the database will search in any indexed field. But using specific field codes in combination with other search techniques can produce more precise searches.
Search Strategy: Subject Terms and Database Thesauri
Subject terms, also called controlled vocabulary, are specific words that have been assigned by a database to categorize each book or article under themed categories. Library databases use searchable thesauri to arrange these subject terms. It is possible to search for articles using subject terms from database thesauri, rather than using keywords. You can also use thesauri for ideas on keywords to use in your database searches when you aren’t quite sure which keywords to try.
The following links display results for resources in library databases categorized under subject terms related to COVID-19:
General Research Databases
Health Sciences Databases
Social and Behavioral Sciences Databases
Note that you can add keyword terms to refine the results in these searches and further focus on research in your field.