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Constructing a Search Statement

Constructing a Search Statement

Identifying the right terms and phrases for your topic is critical to successful searching.  The first step is to list the terms that might be used to describe each of the main concept(s) of your topic (use as many as needed). 

For example, if your topic is on the influence of gender on communication in the workplace, the main concepts are (a)gender, (b)communication, and (c)workplace.

For each of the main concepts, identify synonymous or related terms which may also be used in your search statements.

Sample topic:

Influence of gender on communication in the workplace
Concept "A" Concept "B" Concept "C"
gender communication workplace
women conversation job(s)
woman listening business
sex interaction office


This list of terms may be used in constructing a search statement, using search operators:

  • OR combines the related terms for each concept, broadening the search to be more inclusive.
  • AND narrows the search to records that include at least one of the terms from each concept group.

For example, the above terms may be combined as follows:

(gender OR women OR woman OR sex)


(communication OR conversation OR listening OR interaction)


(workplace OR job OR jobs OR business OR office)


Check out the Search Strategy Builder


Adapted from Purdue University Libraries

Last modified: December 20, 2010