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Gerstein Science Information Centre

CSB198: Cell and Molecular Biology in the News

To help students find recent media articles on cell and molecular biology and explore the science behind them.

Picking Your Topic IS Research

When you pick your topic, it's not set in stone. Picking and adjusting your topic is an integral part of the research process!

Developing Keywords

Choosing Keywords

The first step in choosing keywords is to think about what information you need to search for. This seems obvious, and to a certain extent you are probably already doing it. But a more systematic approach will reward you.

  1. Break the search down into the key concepts:

    • hawk moth and tongue
  2. Brainstorm (or look for in your background reading) synonyms. Tip: You will get more results if you use the common and scientific names for organisms.
    • hawk moth OR sphingidae
    • tongue OR proboscis
  3. Combine these terms in a logical way:
    • OR: combines synonyms -  hawk moth OR sphingidae (either of these concepts should be present in results - not ALL terms need to be present)
    • AND: use when combining different concepts since both these concepts need to be present in results
    • (hawk moth OR sphingidae) AND (tongue OR proboscis)
  4. Things to consider when considering words/terms to include in your search:
    • think of synonyms
    • think of plural and singular variations of words (e.g. moth or moths)
    • use truncation to search for singular and plural versions of words: (e.g. moth*)
    • think of spelling variations: (e.g. behaviour OR behavior)

Search Tips

Too Many Results?

  1. Did you combine with OR rather than AND? Remember to combine similar terms with OR
    (e.g. SARS OR severe acute respiratory syndrome and different terms with AND (e.g. SARS AND vaccines)
  2. Is there a more specific term or phrase you can use?
    e.g. SARS instead of infectious disease?
  3. Is there another word or phrase you can add? The more words you AND together, the more focused your results.
    e.g. SARS AND vaccines AND human
  4. Can you limit your search words/terms to the title or subject/descriptor fields? This makes for a more precise search.
  5. Can you limit your search by publication year or language?

Too Few Results?

  1. Did you combine all your words with AND? Remember to combine similar terms with OR
    e.g. SARS OR severe acute respiratoty syndrome
  2. Use a wildcard (*) to retrieve different word endings (plural vs. singular, Canadian vs. American spelling).
    e.g. vaccin* to find vaccine, vaccines, vaccination, etc.
  3. Consider using more broad terms.
    e.g. infectious diseases instead of SARS
  4. Remove limits such as publication year.
  5. Try another journal article database.
  6. Look for references cited in the articles you find