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A Guide to Comparative Cultural Studies and Humanities Research: Develop A Search Strategy

Turning Keywords into Search Queries

Databases don't work the same as a Google search--there are certain strategies that will ensure you receive the results you need.

Link main ideas together with AND:

  • "prescribed burning" AND "soil health" 

Link related terms together with OR:

  • "prescribed burning" OR "controlled burning" OR "prescribed fire"

Capitalize words such as AND, which help the database construct the search, to tell the database that the word is a "search operator" and not a keyword.

Get Fewer Results Using "AND"

AND narrows your search

and narrows your search

This example returns results with both terms: "prescribed burning" AND soil

How Do I Search A Database?

Video courtesy of the UTC Library

Phrase Searching

Using quotation marks " " to group two or more words will tell the database or search engine to search them as a single concept.

  • controlled burning:
    • database might search for controlled AND burning  
  • "controlled burning" :
    • database searches for the exact phrase between the quotation marks

Get More Results Using "OR"

OR broadens your search

or broadens your search

This example returns results with either term: "soil quality" OR "soil health"

Save Time By Truncating Keywords

In many databases, the * character is a wildcard that tells the database to search for multiple characters in place of the *.

  • burn* = burn AND burning AND burned 
  • bear* = bear AND bears AND bearable

(the bear example illustrates how truncation can lead to some unexpected results)

Get Fewer Results Using "NOT"

NOT excludes results that use a specific term

not excludes a specific term

This example returns results with "prescribed burning" but not "Cerro Grande" : "prescribed burning" NOT "Cerro Grande"

(Cerro Grande is the name of a particular wildfire that was originally lit as a prescribed burn)