Search Experimentally

Rather than trying to construct one perfect search, plan on trying several experimental searches. As you search, seek out diverse perspectives by using a variety of keywords. Look for interdisciplinary perspectives on your topic by trying out your searches in more than one database.

Give it a try:

1. Using a database of your choice, try an advanced search using several of the following search strategies.

Turn your notes and ideas on your topic into keywords for search
  1. Join synonyms with "OR" and major concepts with "AND"
  2. Use an asterisk* to search for multiple forms of the same word (e.g., "recycl*" will find "recycled" "recycling" "recyclable" ....)
  3. Narrow and broaden your search by specifying the title, subject, or topic fields.

Give it a try:

2. Finding too many results? Use filters to narrow your initial search results and learn new search terms.

Turn your notes and ideas on your topic into keywords for search

Most databases have a set of powerful filtering tools, usually on the left side of the screen after you search. Use these to refine your search results and learn new search terms.

Databases commonly allow you to filter your search results for the type of information you are looking for (e.g., limit your search results to scholarly articles or literature reviews). You can usually filter for publication date and subject or research area as well. By combining multiple search filters, you can quickly turn a broad search into several targeted searches.


  • starsIn your initial searches expect that sometimes you wil find too many results, and other times not enough. Be patient as you use your initial searches to explore your topic and build the collection of keywords you are using for search.
  • starsAs you find keywords that seem to be working, remember to mix and match with other keywords to see if you uncover any new or unexpected results.