An introduction to search strategies (including Boolean operators and keyword searches)
How to troubleshoot your search
Use your course readings and lecture notes to brainstorm keywords.
These are just a few of the many broad terms used in the Environmental Sciences to help you get started:
|Task||Why am I doing this?||More help|
Brainstorm keywords to use in your search.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Developing an effective search strategy will assist in retrieving better quality results when searching the library catalogue, databases and the internet.
This can be tricky as the same idea can be expressed in many ways. To ensure best results when searching, brainstorm several keywords whenever possible.
|Choose a relevant journal database to search for scienfitic articles on your topic.||Journal articles provide the most current information and searching a database is a great way of locating articles on a specific topic.||
When searching databases for articles, you should have more than one word entered in your search boxes!
Example: 'earthquakes' is much too broad. Add additional keywords or descriptors using the boolean operator 'AND' to better define your topic.
Choose ‘hard terms’ for your keyword search over ‘soft terms’.
Example: “effects” is a soft term. It’s not a concrete thing which means it has a lot of synonyms and is likely to get bad search results. Let’s pretend you were researching the effects of floods. Instead of searching "effects", you might do a little reading on floods and find relevant hard terms such as "runoff", "hydrograph", "urbanization", and "infrastructure." These are concrete things and thus likely to get better search results.
Keyword searching is essentially taking your best guess at the terms which will appear in articles that are about your topic. This can be a very effective way of searching. However, you may get a number of irrelevant results because the keywords you chose may appear in irrelevant articles. You also never know if you've found all the article on your topic.
Tip: The next time you're using a library catalogue/database or looking at a book or article, take note of the author defined keywords or keywords and subject headings used then try using those terms in your next search.
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