How do I combine my search terms?

In order for Sofia or a database to interpret your question, you have to construct a search statement that could look something like this:

(media or television or newspaper* or radio)
(survey* or poll* or "election forecasting")
(campaign* or "election debates" or "political parties")

When searching for articles in a database, like Academic Search Complete, using a search statement where all keywords and their related terms are searched together at once will allow you to cut down on the number of searches you'll need to do and should save you time.

librarian Librarian tip!

It's common to miss important terms when searching on a topic for the first time. There's usually no need to worry since most basic keyword searches will quickly reveal additional terms. It's a normal process to keep repeating your search, adding new keywords as you go, until you find all the documents you need.

What are all the different elements of a search statement?

Search operators

OR: Used to connect keywords or phrases that are related.

example Example: media OR television OR newspapers

By using the search operator OR, Sofia or a database will retrieve all the documents that contain any of the words. This gives a much broader list of results.

Remember: OR gives you MORE!

AND: Used to link different ideas together.

example Example: television AND "election debates"

By using the search operator AND, Sofia or a database will retrieve only the documents that contain both words.

Quotation marks

If you need to search for a phrase containing two words or more, you may need to use quotation marks (" "). Using quotation marks ensures that results retrieved contain only the exact phrase.

example Example: attention deficit disorder

In Sofia or a database, if you type attention deficit disorder without using quotation marks, you will retrieve documents that contain those three words but not necessarily documents that contain the exact phrase "attention deficit disorder".

Asterisk (*)

The asterisk (also called truncation) used at the end of a word will find all variants of that word.

example Example: environment

Using the asterisk at the end of environment* would retrieve any document containing the words:

environment / environments / environmental / environmentally / environmentalism / environmentalist

take note Take note!

Placing the asterisk too soon in a word may produce some unintended results. For example, "env*" will search for "environment," but it will also find unrelated terms like: "envoy," "envious," "envenom," "envelope," "envision," etc.


Your search strategy will usually include more than one idea. In order for Sofia or a database to understand exactly what you are looking for, use parentheses ( ) to group all the related search terms that represent one idea.

example Example: What is the effect of indoor air quality on workplace productivity?

Main ideas: indoor air quality; workplace; productivity

Possible search statement: ("indoor air quality" or "indoor air pollution" or "air quality" or "air pollution") and (workplace or "work environment" or office*) and productivity

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