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How to find articles

Step 3 - Decide on your search strategy

  • Identify the key concepts of your topic (often two or three main ideas that stand out).
  • For each concept, think of keywords and synonyms.
  • You may want to consider using standardized terms (often referred to as "subject headings" or "descriptors" in databases). In many databases, articles are assigned a standardized term and once you find the correct term you will be able to quickly find many articles on your topic.
    This may be helpful when searching for a concept that can be expressed in more than one way. For example, to help you find information on all kinds of "beauty products" such as cosmetic, deodorants, sunscreens, toothpastes, the business database ABI/INFORM uses the phrase "health & beauty aids".
    To find a list of standard subject terms used in a database, look for the thesaurus or subject terms feature.
  • Think about how you will combine your search terms in a way the database will understand. For example, to find articles about violence on television, in most databases, you need to combine your keywords using AND or OR

violence AND television

When you use AND between two keywords, the articles retrieved must contain both words

violence AND (television OR media)

When you use OR between two keywords, the articles retrieved must contain at least one of the words. When using AND and OR in one search statement, always use parentheses to group synonyms.

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