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To prepare your search, identify the main ideas in your question and think of keywords and related terms for each idea. You may also want to include standardized terms (subject headings or descriptors).


Combine the search terms into a search strategy using search operators like AND or OR:

  • OR: connects keywords or phrases that are related.
  • AND: links different ideas together.

A search strategy can also contain:

  • Quotation marks (" "): ensures that results retrieved contain only the exact phrase.
  • Truncation (*): will find variants of a word when placed at the end of it.
  • Parentheses (): group related search terms together to include more than one idea in a search.

When you search, if you find:

  • Too few results: Try using truncation, replacing long phrases with keywords, consider using different databases, adding synonyms using OR, broadening your research topic.
  • Too many results: Try removing or checking the placement of truncation, adding more search terms with AND, filtering results, limiting search to specific fields, grouping concepts together.
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