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Research Skills - Database Search Tips: About Keyword Searching

Ways to limit or expand your search results when using databases

Keyword Searching

  • The most efficient way to search  = Keyword Searching
  • Database search engines (or Google, Bing, etc.) bring back any result that contains the exact word(s) that you put into the search box – no more, no less.
  • If you do a one-word search, you will get many results quickly (like a Google search), but many will not actually be focused on your topic.
  • But if you use several ‘keywords’ to describe your topic - and add the word AND (in capital letters) in between them - the search engine will bring back a more focused set of results.
    • You 'told' the search engine that you only wanted the results that had every keyword in them.
    • Most of our databases have an ‘Advanced’ search page where you can put multiple search words in multiple search boxes, with the AND already in between them.


Example: You’re writing a paper about the portrayal of women’s body image in media. Example of advanced search interface with multiple keywords

Try:                                    women AND images AND media


                                   body AND image AND women AND media


You’re not always going to get the perfect set of results from the first search you run.

  • Your search - and your 'search query' - evolves as you go along.
  • You may find alternate words and synonyms...
    • in result titles
    • in the abstract (the short synopsis of what the book or article is about)
    • within the book or article’s text
    • in subject terms / indexing terms (the words that databases use to ‘file’ / index their documents).
      • A search result's 'indexing terms' are often listed somewhere near the search result's abstract.