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AFS 201

A Library Research Guide for AFS 201

Getting Started Using Scholarly Databases

This page will assist you with locating research resources within scholarly databases (e.g. databases with peer-reviewed research). There are a few steps that you will need to utilize. They are all detailed on this page. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Step 1. Creating keywords from your research question

Step 2. Creating efficient search statements by utilizing Boolean Operators

Step 3. Searching a scholarly database and limiting results

Step 4. Evaluating the resources that you've found (see the next tab)

Creating Keywords from Your Research Question

Tips for creating good search statements

A search statement is the query that identifies the information that you are looking for within the database. A good search statement will provide you with the most accurate articles pertaining to your research topic.

Creating a search statement with proper keywords is going to be your first step in finding scholarly research resources based on your research question.

This video will assist you in creating keywords from your research question to use within a scholarly database. You can read the full transcript here.

Step 1. Identify keywords

Form a research question and then identify the key concepts and/or keywords from that statement. Try to identify 1-3 keywords to use for searching. These keywords will be your variables, or what you are looking to study.

Let's say my research question is: "How does climate change affect children living in emergent nations?"

My keywords are: climate change, children, and emergent nations. 


Step 2. Identify Similar Concepts

I don't want to miss valuable research because I'm not thinking about the topic in the same way another researcher is. So I'm going to look for all of the similar concepts and synonyms that a researcher might use for my keywords.

For example:

Climate change global warming, climate crises, greenhouse effect, etc.
Children youths, kids, adolescent, juvenile, child, toddler, etc.
Emergent Nation

emerging nation, developing nation, emergent country, third world country, etc.

{Note: sometimes using an outdated term like "third world" can assist you in finding older research or specific viewpoints}

Creating Efficient Search Statements

Creating a Search Statement by Boolean Operators & Other Database Tools

(Create efficient and powerful search statements to be used in scholarly databases)

This video provides assistance regarding utilizing Boolean Operators and other database tools so as to create powerful and efficient search statements to be used within scholarly databases. You can read the full transcript here

Most databases utilize Boolean Operators. By understanding Boolean Operators, you will be better able to search resources in the most efficient and most thorough manner. Boolean Operators allow you to build powerful search statements with minimal effort.

Most databases will have a drop-down menu that lists three Boolean Operators, AND, OR, NOT.

Web of Science search interface utilizing Boolean operators


Boolean Operators


Search example: Developing countries OR emergent nations

Returns results that utilize either of the terms “developing countries” or “emergent nations.”

Expands search results The operator OR is particularly helpful when you want to broaden your search, especially when you want to include synonyms.


Search example:  Agriculture AND Washington 

Would return:

The history of agriculture in Oregon and Washington

Would not return:

The history of agriculture in Oregon and California

Narrows search results AND is how you are going to search multiple concepts/variables together.


Search example: Washington NOT D.C.

Narrows search results NOT is used to eliminate records. It eliminates a predefined term from the search results.


Other Database Tools

Quotation Marks ("  ")

Search example: “Washington State”

Would return the result:

The history of Washington State University

Would not return the result:

The history of Washington D.C. and Maryland.

Only returns results utilizing that exact phrase as it appears in the quotation marks.

The Wildcard (*)

Search example: Agri*

Returns results:

Search example: S*food

Returns results:


Returns results:
seafood, soyfood, superfood

The * can be used anywhere in the search term to represent any characters (or no characters). It is a super easy way to conduct searches that pertain to all of the variations of a term.


Create Your Search Statement

Build a search statement using Boolean Operators and other database tools (see above).

Here's what that search would look like in the Web of Science database utilizing Boolean Operators and our keywords/concepts along with their synonyms.

Search string in Web of Science Advanced Search interface

Tips for Searching and Utilizing a Scholarly Database

Examining and Sorting Your Results

This video provides assistance regarding limiting your search results and utilizing Web of Science. 

Evaluate your search results

You can limit your results to peer reviewed articles, specific date ranges, and much more. You can also search within your results. The functionality and terminology may differ between databases. Here's Web of Science:
Limiting results options within Web of Science search interface


Other database tips:


Search results in Web of Science


  • Click the Find It @ WSU button to access the text of the article (you may also see links to the publisher's website).
  • Click the title of the article to see more info about the article including the abstract, citation list, and much more.
  • Click the "Times Cited" link to the right of the article to see what other articles cite this article.
  • If the full text of the article is not immediately available you can order it via Interlibrary loan (for free!)


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