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HIST 302: Emancipation & War -- Professor Behrend: Database Searching Skills

Keyword Techniques: AND

When you are searching for articles and want to get fewer articles that are better focused on your topic, you can use AND to narrow the number of articles you see.

For instance, if you search for Public Health AND Policy, you will only see articles that have both keywords in them. If you add another concept (Public Health AND Policy AND Prevention), you will see even fewer results, since all articles now have to have all three keywords.

Some databases require you to capitalize AND when you write it out, so it's a good habit to get into. 



When you are searching for a word or concept with multiple synonyms or variations, use the * (also known as truncation).

When put at the end of a string of letters, * will search for words that start with those letters and give you articles that include every possible word that could start with those letters.

Examples include:

surviv* will get you articles using the words survive, survival, and survivors

nazi* will get you articles using the words nazi, nazis, and nazism

war* get you articles using the words war, wars, warfare, warplane, but also ward, warden, warner, warlock, wardrobe, warlord, warp, warehouse, warm, warn, warble, etc.

Keyword Techniques: PHRASES WITH " " MARKS

When you are searching for a concept, idea, or object that can only be described or named with multiple words, put the words in "quotation marks" when searching in a database.

Examples include: 

"French Resistance", "global warming", "accounts receivable", "musical theater".

Avoid phrase searching with quotation marks where the phrase is not a common turn of speech, where there is only a single word, or where descriptive adjectives are used.

Examples include: 

"beautiful artwork", "spreading propaganda", "terrible disease", "how a bill becomes a law", "United state's economy"

Keyword Techniques: OR

When you are searching for articles and want to get more articles that include similar terms that describe your topic, you can use OR to expand the number of articles that you see.

For instance, if you search for Policy AND Globalism, but also wanted to include the concept of Law (similar to policy in some searches), you would write that as follows:

(Policy OR Law) AND Globalism

This will get you all the articles with the keywords Policy AND Globalism, and all the articles with the keywords Law AND Globalism.




Whenever you use OR, always use () parentheses around the two or more concepts that you are saying are similar terms.

The parenthesis are necessary because OR acts like the + sign in a math problem, while AND acts like multiplying.

Policy OR Law AND Globalism will get you all articles with the word Policy, and then a separate pile with Law AND Globalism.

In this case, it's like an algebra equation: you want to multiply (Policy + Law) x Globalism to get Policy x Globalism + Law x Globalism.

Keyword Techniques: NOT

When you are searching for a concept and keep getting articles that are on a different but related topic, use NOT to screen out the unwanted topic when searching in the database.

For example, say your topic is tuberculosis (a lung disease), but you don't want to research articles on Public Health because you are looking at the medical side of the disease. If you search for tuberculosis NOT "Public Health", that will remove all articles with the phrase Public Health in them. 


Circle with the word Tuberculosis and a separate, shaded chunk labeled NOT Public Health