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How to Search: Use Keywords & Keep It Simple

moon with misty clouds in frontIn academic databases, keywords give you the best search results. Talk through your topic or research idea with someone to identify the main concepts or contact the librarian for help.

  • 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! Add more keywords if you get too many results. Take keywords out if you aren't seeing enough.

Image by RSvB is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

When To Use Each Connector

AND narrows your search - useful if you get too many results.

Remember, the more terms you connect with and, the fewer your results! Take some keywords out if you're not getting enough results.

OR expands your search - useful if you get too few results.

Use synonyms for your concepts connecting them with or.


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)