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How to Search: Use Keywords & Keep It Simple

moon with misty clouds in frontOnce you have a research question, identify keywords and try a search. In academic databases, keywords give you the best search results.

Instead of a long and wordy phrase such as "all the research that shows evidence to prove there's no life on the moon," use keywords such as "life on the moon" and research.

Keep it simple, especially at first! Then, add more keywords if you get too many results. Take keywords out if you aren't seeing enough. Here's a video.

With NCC Library OneSearch on library homepage, search everything (all publications) is the default search. Use limiters such as date range and source type to refine your search.

Image by RSvB is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

Connect Keywords with These Words - AND, OR and NOT

After your first search, adjust your search strategy:

AND narrows your search - useful if, at first, you get too many results. The more terms you connect with AND --  the more words you put in the search box -- the fewer your results!

OR expands your search - useful if, at first, you get too few results. Use synonyms for your concepts connecting them with OR. You will get more results.


NOT excludes words from your results. Be careful! When you exclude a word, you may be eliminating relevant articles in which the word appears. Usually, this connector is not necessary.

Research 101: Searching Is Strategic (3:14)