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Search Strategies: Tips for Working with Databases: Creating Search Terms

The following guide is an introduction to creating search terms, and using subject headings, keywords and search syntax.

Creating a Search

There are many strategies that you may employ when looking for information in a database. When starting your search, it is important to plan out your search strategy in advance, and follow these 4 important steps to insure that you receive the results that you are looking for.

1. Define your topic (write a few sentences that explain what you are looking for)
2. Choose keywords (select keywords from your sentences)
3. Group like keywords together
4. Decide how groups of keywords are related.

 

Hints

  • Decide which groups of like keywords are essential - start with these
  • Be aware of the need to include singular/plural forms, alternative words, British spelling.
  • Build the search up in small, logical steps.
  • Short Phrase searching can also be a very effective tool, but should be used with caution. (the phrase that seems logical to you may not be the best or most appropriate one)
  • Experiment with short phrase searching after trying single key word.

How to Choose Keywords

Here's a helpful video on choosing your keywords to build an effective search strategy from McMaster University.