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Sociology: Strategize Your Search

Search Strategies

Search Strategies 

  1. Gather possible search words
    1. use words in your assignment prompts and readings as search words
    2. brainstorm synonyms for search words. Example: hunger = famine, starvation
    3. brainstorm broader search words. Example: a broader search word for "hunger" = food insecurity
    4. brainstorm narrower search words. Example: a narrower search word for "developing countries" = Bangladesh
  2. Strategize: Use different words and different search tools
    1. plan to search in different search tools (try several library databases, the internet..etc.)
    2. in each tool:
  • First, try broad searches, such as: famine
  • Then, combine words to narrow and focus searches, such as famine "third world" "genetically modified foods"

(click on image to enlarge)

image of advanced search page, showing how to combine terms as outlined in the text below the image

  1. Combine search words with AND to narrow your search. Example: hunger AND developing countries
  2. Put quotation marks around words to find phrases. Example: "genetically modified foods"
  3. Use OR to find synonyms for words and concepts. Example: hunger OR famine
  4. Option: Click "full text" to limit results to full text articles
  5. Option: Click "peer-reviewed" or "scholarly" to limit results to scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles

Video: How to Use Keywords to Form a Research Strategy

Source: "From topic to search results in two minutes! " by Holman Library is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Learn about strategizing keywords and how databases work when searching keywords.

Search Checklist

Try Some of These Advanced Search Strategies:

  • Click the full-text option in the database to limit results to those that are available in full text
  • If I can't find the full text of an article, I will order it for free through Interlibrary Loan
  • Use quotation marks to keep a phrase together in my search. Example “gender roles
  • Use AND to connect ideas and narrow my search. Example: “gender roles” AND latino
  • In the same box, use OR to expand my search to synonyms or related ideas. Example: latino OR hispanic
  • Use an asterisk to truncate search words. Example: advertis* finds: advertise, advertisements, advertising

(click on image to enlarge)

search box showing the AND OR NOT boolean options in use as listed in the text above

  • Use database tools to limit searches to scholarly (academic or "peer-reviewed") articles
  • Use database "subject" terms or "thesaurus" to identify more helpful search words 
  • Use database "sort by date" features to find more current articles
  • Click on the name of an article author in a database to see what other articles they have written
  • Look at the bottom of an article under the "references" section to identify articles that the author has cited. To see if you can locate the article, copy that article title into the search box in One Search (linked below).