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Welcome to the NCC Library Website

Find online resources for your courses 24/7.

See our Getting Started with Research guide for help picking a topic and composing a research question.


Use the advanced search view if it is an option. That way, you can break out your concepts into different boxes making it easier to add or substitute keywords.

No Question too Small!

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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.

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

Connect Keywords with These Words

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.

Step-by-step Sample Search

  1. Change your research question into keywords or search words.
    Question: Is there any connection between legal drinking age and crime rates?

    Initial keywords:  drinking age, crime
  2. Use quote marks to keep a phrase intact: "drinking age" Sometimes a database does this for you.
  3. Combine your terms with AND to find articles that mention all of your search words such as
    "drinking age" and crime
  4. Use OR with synonyms, to find any of a list of similar words, such as (crime or arrest or violence) Databases increasingly do this for you.
  5. Ready for an advanced move? Use parentheses (   )  if you combine AND + OR  in the same search, such as:
    "drinking age" and (crime or arrest or violence) so that the "operation" inside parentheses happens first.
  6. You have a good first search with "drinking age" and (crime or arrest or violence)
  7. Try other combinations of keywords and use the database's limiters such as source type and date.
  8. Remember, it doesn't work like math; the more words you connect with AND, the fewer your results!
    AND narrows!  OR expands!

Research 101: Searching Is Strategic (3:14)