Brainstorm keywords and alternate keywords (synonyms) you might want to search. You may not necessarily search all of these terms, and you'll likely come up with more once you begin searching. For example, if you start with a search on fracking, you will find many articles and other sources use the phrase hydraulic fracturing instead.
Use "and" and "or" to connect your search terms, to expand or narrow your search results. These may be called Boolean operators.
|Boolean Operator||For Example||What Happens to Your Search Results?||Visualized|
algae AND aviation fuels
biofuels AND airplanes
Retrieves results that include all/both words or phrases
More targeted, but also fewer (maybe too few) results
algae OR biofuels
airplanes OR aviation OR jets
Retrieves results that include at least one of your words or phrases, but not necessarily all of them
More (maybe too many search results), including a greater number that may be less relevant
Then combine the two strategies for a more complex search:
(jets OR aviation) AND (biofuels OR alternative fuels OR algae OR cooking oil)
If the words you want to search are typically a phrase, you may want to use quotes, like "climate change." Each database has a help menu that you can consult if you need more guidance on searching.
Truncation (usually with an asterisk, *) allows you to search for words with multiple endings without having to write each one. For example, biofuel* would search for biofuel or biofuels, and alga* for alga and algae.
This can be very helpful for words like chem* (chemistry, chemical, chemicals) or spectr* (spectra, spectroscopy, spectrum), and sometimes it can give you too many results (nano*).
Each database offers options to narrow your search results, saving you time by excluding results that don't meet your search criteria. For example, you may only want to see English-language journal articles published in the last five years.
Common limits (along with using the Boolean and operator) include publication date, document type, language, peer-reviewed (scholarly) articles only, and by subject or descriptor. Some of options for those limits vary between databases. For example, the document limiter in Web of Science includes an option to see only review articles (rather than research articles), while Academic Search Complete lets you limit results for trade publications, magazines, or newspapers along with journal articles.
|Every record, whether it's for a book in the library catalog, or for a journal article in one of the databases, has been assigned one or more subject headings. Even if you don't know the best subject headings when you start searching, they will come up as you find relevant books and articles from your keyword searches. The subject headings are usually hyperlinked, so you can click to them find the other articles or books where that subject was assigned.very record, whether it's for a book in the library catalog, or for a journal article in one of the databases, has been assigned one or more subject headings. Even if you don't know the best subject headings when you start searching, they will come up as you find relevant books and articles from your keyword searches. The subject headings are usually hyperlinked, so you can click to them find the other articles or books where that subject was assigned.|
An abstract is a brief summary of the article: what the authors did and what they found out. It also serves as marketing, because it's a chance for the authors to tell you why you should read it. Abstracts also provide additional keywords and phrases to include in your searching, as noted here in black (the red indicates phrasing that identifies this as a research article as opposed to a review article).
|When you find a relevant article, another way to find additional, potentially helpful articles is to look at what articles were cited in the paper. and what articles have cited that paper since it was published. These may appear in the database as Cited Articles or Bibliography, and Citing Articles or Times Cited.|
|When you find a good article, you can advantage of the database's "Related Records" feature to find articles that may be similar to your article. The related articles are often based on common subjects, descriptors or keywords assigned to the articles, but Web of Science uses common cited references, retrieving papers whose authors cited the same papers cited in your article.|