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APSC 262 - Technology and Society

Key Resources

Database Search Strategies

Google automatically finds synonyms and variations on the keywords you search for. Other databases don't always have the same capabilities. Here are a few tips which can make your database searches more effective:

Boolean operators: AND, OR, NOT

  • Most databases assume an AND - they search for documents matching all the keywords you search for.
  • OR can be very useful when you're not finding enough results - add in some synonyms to broaden your search. Use parentheses to gather these synonyms together and combine with another concept.
  • NOT is equivalent to the minus sign in Google - use it to exclude a word from your search. Use with caution.

Phrase searching: put quotes around your keywords to find the words together, in that order. Might limit your search too much; use carefully.

Truncation: in most databases, an asterisk at the end of a word will find all different endings.

  • Example: “life cycle” AND (analysis OR assess*)

Controlled vocabulary or subject headings: these are terms added to articles or books to help you find related topics. In some databases, you can click on these or add them to your search to help improve your results.

Research Skills for Engineering Students