Put quotation marks around any phrases among your terms so that the phrase is what’s searched for, rather than the separate words. “Common cold” instead of common cold is a good example. Without those quotation marks, just think how many sources Google or other search tools would waste their/your time on things that have nothing to do with our sniffles.
USE WILDCARD AND TRUNCATION SYMBOLS TO BROADEN
Consider whether using wild card or truncating symbols would help find variations of a word(s). For instance, the wildcard symbol in wom?n finds both woman and women, and the truncating symbol in mathematic* finds mathematics, mathematically, mathematician, etc.
You can often do more precise searching by combining search terms by using the words AND, OR and NOT. These are known as Boolean Operators. Generally, using these operators narrows your search, making it more precise.
AND – If the main idea contains 2 or more ideas, you’ll want to use AND to combine them. To look for information about spiders as signs of climate change you’ll want to have both terms in the search and are performing an AND search. That’s what automatically happens in search engines such as Google and Bing unless you tell them to do something different by using OR or NOT.
OR – If the main idea has several synonyms, use OR to combine them. Most search tools search for all terms (AND) by default, so you need to use the term OR between terms to let it know you want to find any of the terms. In the previous example of Latino small business growth, we would want to also use the term Hispanic.
NOT – If the main idea has a common use you want to exclude, use NOT to exclude that word. For example if we were looking for information about illegal drug use we would want to exclude prescription drugs from the search results. This is commonly done with NOT or the use of the Minus (-) sign. (When using some search tools, use AND NOT before the term.)
Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research by Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.