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Northern Arizona University-Yuma Branch Campus

Search Strategy Example

Searching Databases

Academic Search Complete and Communication and Mass Media Complete are databases provided by the same vendor, EBSCOhost.  Available through Cline Library.

Step One:  Identify the topic and consider two to three concepts that directly relate to the topic.  Use the chart below as a guide.


Impact of social media on political campaigns


social media

political campaigns


Consider alternative keywords for the concepts

Social Media


Political Campaigns


media OR "media influence"

"social networking"


"election campaigns"



"political communication"




Step Two:  Develop a search strategy using the keywords and/or phrases.  Less is more; start with a few keywords and if necessary build a more comprehensive search.  See search tips below. 


Step Three: Recognize that databases have similar features, such as “limiters” or ways to narrow the search results (e.g., date of publication, peer-reviewed journal, and full-text).   Apply limiters if necessary.


Step Four: View the results.  If the search strategy did not return any results try changing the keywords. 

Search tips 



Quotation marks

Exact phrase searching


Combine terms


Omit or ignore a term


Expand the search to include either or both terms


Structure a Boolean (AND, OR, NOT) search


Truncate a term or complete a phrase


Wildcard used to replace a single letter


Wildcard used for alternate spellings

N and a number

Finds terms near x terms

W and a number

Finds terms within x terms in order

Try not to use punctuation

Databases ignore these unless it is a question mark

Try not to use stop words

Databases ignore these