Skip to Main Content

2014 MU Libraries International Students Workshops: Search Strategies

Boolean Operators and Truncation

Boolean Operators are connectors that you can use between your search terms to narrow or broaden the scope of your search.

AND: When you use the AND operator between two search terms, it narrows your results to only those articles containing both of the terms.

Example: International Students AND Experiences= Fewer Search Results.  

OR: When you use the OR operator between two search terms, it broadens your search to articles containing one or both of the search terms.

Example: International Students OR Experiences= More Search Results.

Truncation: Placing a (*) symbol after the root of a particular word will find results containing variations of that word.

Example: Experienc* will return results that contain the words experience, experiences, experienced, and experiencing.

Search Strategies

When beginning the research process, it helps to do some preparation before you start performing searches in databases and search engines. The steps listed below will solidify your research purpose (what information you are looking for), and will also supply you with a question for natural language searching, as well as terms that can be combined with Boolean operators..

  1. Formulate your research purpose into a question. The question that we used in our presentation was "What effect does nutrition have on learning?" Forming this question helps to solidify what sort of information you are looking for and helps to guide you during the research process. You can also use this question or variation of it when you are performing a natural language search.
  2. Pull the main concepts from your research question. The main concepts in the above quesiton are 'nutrition' and 'learning'.
  3. Once you have your main concepts, you can start thinking of synonyms and related terms for each main concept. For example, a related concept of the term 'nutrition' is 'diet' or 'nourishment'. When you are finished, you will have a list of terms that can be combined using Boolean operators and used to perform a search, or you can use these related terms to change the wording of the question being used in a resource that uses natural language searching.
  4. These steps can be done for any research project. they will help you get started using the many resources offered by MU Libraries.

Phrase vs. Keyword Search

A keyword search will make the database search for those words wherever they appear in a document.      

  • ex. international student

 -the database will search the text for any mention of the word international and the word student

A phrase search will make the database search for a series of words where they appear together in a document.

  • ex. "international student"

 -the database will search the text for any occurrences of all of these words placed together within the document.

Natural Language Searching

Natural language searching is a method of searching which uses speech as it is spoken in a day to day basis. All you have to do is type in a phrase or question into the search field of a resource that uses natural language searching.

Resources that use natural langauge searching include "Search and Find" and "Google Scholar".

An example of Natural language Searching would be "What are the effects of nutrition on college students?"

This approach is usually a good to use as a first step in the research process.  It allows you a wide range of information and articles that you can then narrow down with keyword searching.