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ENGL 102 - Davenport: Develop a Research Strategy

Choosing Your Search Terms for Book vs. Article Searches

Select broad or narrow terms based on the type of source you are searching

Sample topic
"Is cigarette advertising geared towards getting teenagers to start smoking?"


Book Catalog Search Example: do a separate search for each of these words

cigarettes

smoking

You could also search for broader subjects like this and find a relevant book chapter:

health

disease


Tips for searching for Books:

When searching for books, it's best to use only one or two words even if your topic is more complex.  Books tend to cover topics from a broader perspective and so the terms you use must also be broader and your strategies simpler. There may be a chapter in a book that is on your specific topic.


Periodical Article Database ExampleWhen searching for articles in databases (ProQuest or EbscoHost/Academic Search Premier) consider using more terms and specific search terms and use Boolean Operators to combine them. Articles tend to cover only very narrow specific aspects of a topic and the search terms are also more specific.

cigarettes OR tobacco OR smoke OR smoking OR smokers

AND

advertising OR ads

AND

teens OR teenagers OR adolescents OR adolescence



Turning Your Research Question into a Search Strategy

Thinking about your topic and potential search terms is a critical step in the research process. Sometimes authors (or databases!) use certain vocabulary when discussing a topic. Other authors (or databases) might use a different term (synonym). Most topics have more than one word or combination of words that can be used to express the idea. 

Below you can see an example of how you might list additional search terms.  Use a thesaurus, your textbook, subject headings of the databases, or article you've already found to help you find different keywords for your concepts. Try searching with these additional terms if your original search terms don't work!


Research Question:

    Is cigarette advertising geared towards getting teenagers to start smoking?

A search strategy is created by thinking of alternative terms and combining them with "boolean operators" 

Note:  This type of complex strategy is for searching periodical databases not book catalogs

Concept/line #1

(main idea)

cigarettes

Concept/line #2

(main idea)

 advertising

Concept/line #3

(main idea)

 teenagers

                                                  AND                                                  AND

 Brainstorm additional vocabulary for each of these concepts –
What are the synonyms, related terms and narrower/broader words?  Be creative!

When using the Advanced Search option available in most databases, all of the "or'd" words should be entered on the same line horizontally.

 

  cigarettes

OR

  tobacco

OR 

 smoke

OR

 smoking

OR

 smokers


 

 

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 advertising

OR

 ads

 

 teenagers

OR

 teens

OR

 adolescents

OR

 adolescence