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Writing Your Research Papers

Choosing Keywords

When searching, try to identify the main topics.  Use no more than 3-4 words or phrases.

For example, you'd like to find articles on the effects of air pollution on children in the United States.

  • Topic 1 - air pollution
  • Topic 2 - children 
  • Topic 3 - United States

See the table below for more ideas on how to refine this search!

Top 6 Search Tips

Keywords not working?

Find synonyms (similar words):


Read subject headings or abstracts of the things you do find – what words are they using?

Too many results?

Try AND:  combines different terms when both must be present

Suicide AND Adolescents

Suicide AND Adolescents AND Prevention

Air pollution AND effects AND children AND United States

Not enough results?

Use OR: combines terms when at least one must be present

Teenager OR youth OR adolescent

Mick Jagger OR Rolling Stones

theater OR theatre

Children or pediatric

Getting the wrong results?

Use NOT (or – sign in Google): Eliminates terms from a search

Apple NOT fruit (-fruit)

Java NOT coffee (-coffee)

Pollution NOT groundwater

Looking for a phrase?

Add quotation marks

“song lyrics”

“title of book/song/article/movie”

“First and Last Name”

“popular quote”  

"air pollution"


Add an asterisk (*) to look for all endings for the root of a word

Educat* looks for Educator, Educators, Education, Educational

Child* looks for Children

Find Articles Faster: Boolean AND, OR, NOT

Boolean Operator Examples Results
Boolean AND


AND combines different terms when both must be present. Use AND to narrow a search.
Boolean OR


OR combines terms when at least one must be present. Use OR to broaden a search.
Boolean NOT


NOT eliminates terms from a search. Use NOT when
you want to exclude all records that contain a certain term.