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Communication 485: Research Methods: Search Tips

Tips & Tricks

  • Using AND between search terms will narrow your results. For example, searching "communicative competence" AND children tells the database you want articles that discuss both topics. You will get fewer results when you use AND.

  • Using OR between search terms will expand your results. For example, searching children OR youth tells the database you want any articles that have either one of your search terms. You will get more results when you use OR.

  • When searching library databases, put quote marks around phrases. This tells the database you want only articles that contain those words next to one another. For example, searching communicative competence without quotes will retrieve articles with communicative AND competence in the text, but the words won't necessarily be next to one another. When you search "communicative competence" with quotes, the database will retrieve only articles with those words in the text as a phrase. This will decrease the number of results you get and make your search results more relevant to your topic.

  • Using an asterisk (*) when you search tells the database you want all variations of a word; this is called truncation. For example, if you search for communicat*, you will get results for communication, communicate, communicative, etc.. This is especially helpful if you want to search both singular and plural forms of a word. Note: occasionally a database will use a different symbol for this function.

  • You can combine these tips into a single search by using nesting. For example, we could search (children OR youth) AND "communicat* competence". We put parentheses around our OR section to tell the database we want either children OR youth, then we use AND to tell the database the articles must include a variation of the phrase "communicative competence" as well.

To see a PowerPoint on this topic, check out this Tips to Save you Time: Find Info Fast presentation. 

Search Tips

This Tips to Save you Time: Find Info Fast PowerPoint presentation provides an overview of the library research process and commonly used keyword search tips. Generally, you will start your research with keyword searches, so it is a good idea to memorize these tips. You can also look for resource specific tips, such as the truncation symbol and date range limit, on the help screens of the database(s) being used and on the Research@UWW: Search Tips guide.

Review Handout - Search Commands, Saving to Your Account, etc.