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DIY How To

General Tips that work in Most Searches

  • Quotation marks search for an exact phrase. This is useful is you need to find a specific phrase, like "medical error."
  • An asterisk (*) searches for all endings to a word at the same time. For example, educat*, searches for education, educator, educated, and educational.
  1. Keep it simple! Start by typing the name of a thing, place, or concept that you are looking for.

    London and transportation

    "ocean pollution"

  2. Use scholarly words without jargon or abbreviations to describe what you are looking for.

    "User experience", not UX

    "Motion pictures" or cinema, not movies

  3. Use only the keywords rather than your research question.
  4. Research question: Why are bats considered bad luck?

    Keywords: bats AND "bad luck"

Too many results:

  • Use one or two keywords, then add additional terms if you need to narrow down your results;
  • Use limiters, such as date and resource type, to focus your results list;
  • If your topic is too broad, then think about the different parts of your topic and search for them separately.

Too few results:

  • You can use OR between synonyms; for example, salary OR pay OR compensation;
  • If you use AND to combine terms, each additional keyword in your search will retrieve fewer results;
  • Use keywords about the broader theme of your topic, such as plastics AND pollution instead of BPA-free plastic.

Need some more guidance? Try the Database Search Strategies worksheet

  • The Cox Library Catalog is a great place to start your search for books and articles;
  • Limit by Resource Type to the type of content that you are interested in, like print books or ebooks;

Still stuck? Try using the chat on our digital portal page.

Use this tool to create a search strategy that you can use in a variety of databases, and the library catalogue.

  Concept 1 AND Concept 2 AND Concept 3
Name your concepts here:    
Search terms Search terms Search terms

List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be:

Use single words or short phrases.













Cut & paste the results into most database search boxes.