Your searches will work best in most databases if you break your topic apart and then combine the concepts with AND/OR. This is called Boolean logic and is named after a mathematician
AND - narrows your searches
Ex. Piracy AND maritime
OR - broadens your searches
Ex. piracy OR pirates
Most databases will have pull down boxes where you can select AND or OR.
You can also use these together by using parentheses; in some databases, each set of parentheses will be on a separate search line.
(piracy OR pirates) AND (maritime OR ocean* OR seas* OR Somali*)
NOT can be used to exclude terms that send your search in the wrong direction. Sometimes you have to use "AND NOT."
(piracy OR pirates) AND NOT (online OR software)
The above in pictures
OR - gets all the info from both circles
AND - gets only the info where the circles overlap
Truncation - find all words starting with the letters you have typed. Most common truncation symbol is the asterisk *
Ex, obes* = obese, obesity
child* = child, childhood, childlike, children
Wildcard - used to substitute letters inside a word
Ex. wom*n = woman OR women
colo*r = color OR colour
Exact Phrase - use quotation marks around your term to get that exact phrase
Ex. "high fructose corn syrup"
Field Searching - you can search specifically in the title, the abstract (summary), or by author.
Most databases have pull down menus that let you select which field you want to search.