Skip to Main Content

NABU 330

Searching in a library database is very different than searching in Google. The database uses certain language and codes to understand exactly what you're looking for.

Use the tips below to turn your research topic into a research strategy.


On this page: 

Search Strategy 1: Break a topic into key concepts

Sample topic: “travel motivations of university students”  

Separate the key concepts of your research topic. Each key concept becomes a search term: 

Concept 1: Travel

Concept 2: Motivation 

Concept 3: University student

Demonstration of separating key concepts into different boxes in the databases' advanced search

Search Strategy 2: Brainstorm synonyms

The database tries to find articles that contain every search term you use. This means, if an author uses a different keyword than you, their article won't show up in the results list. Therefore, brainstorm synonyms for your keywords. Separate synonyms with OR to tell the database to look for articles with either word.  

Concept 1: Travel

Concept 2: Motivation OR Influence; 

Concept 3: University student OR College student 

Example of search strategy AND and OR to separate concepts



More Search Strategies

  1. Use quotation marks around a group of words to search the words as a phrase. 
  2. Add an asterisk after the root word to search for the root word plus all possible endings. Example: Canad* = Canada, Canadian, Canadiens.
  3. Use the plus sign below the search box to add additional search fields and further narrow your results.

Use quotation marks around two or more words to search an exact phrase


Add additional search fields/terms to narrow your results. An asterisk after a rood word searches for all words that begin with those letters: Canad* = Canada, Canadian, Canadians