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Hort/Crop Sci 102

Research guide for Hort / Crop Sci 102

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.

Want to learn more about this process? This library research guide below has in-depth tutorials and videos that will assist you.

Creating Keywords from Your Research Question

Our goal is to turn our research area, or research question, into usable keywords that we can search within a scholarly database.


For example, let's say we're interested in:

Highbush Blueberries acting as an anti-inflammatory

How do we turn that topic idea into usable research?

*Remember, scholarly databases assume that the researcher knows what they're doing, so they put the responsibility of creating keywords (and spelling) on you.

Step 1: What words will you put into the database search?

My first task is to pull the keywords that I want to search out of this statement (if we just search the entire statement we'll get a bunch of useless results). I really just want to pull out my variables (e.g. what do I want to study?).

So, what I want to study is Highbush Blueberries as an anti-inflammatory.

Step 2: Are there synonyms and other concepts we should also search?

The database search is only as good as the terms that you provide.

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.

If you are studying a plant, it may be helpful to find alternative names.

For example, Highbush Blueberries are also called Vaccinium corymbosum

I'm also interested in anti-inflammatory which could sometimes be pluralized. Furthermore, it may be useful to add the search inflamatory (as in "treating inflammatory problems")

Our keywords will be: Highbush Blueberries, Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, anti-inflammatory, inflammatory, anti-inflammatories, anti-inflammatory

* We could also add concepts like anti-oxidants.

* We could also expand our search to just blueberries (and not Highbush Blueberries).

* Sometimes, our list of synonyms can be quite long, for example climate change could be: Global warming, climate crises, greenhouse effect, weather instability, etc.

Step 3: Let's create a search string (so we don't have to do multiple searches)

Most databases will have a drop-down menu that lists three Boolean Operators, AND, OR, NOT. These Boolean Operators will allow you to create quick and powerful search statements. You can also write the Boolean Operators in the search bar yourself (see picture below).



Boolean Operators Table


Search example: Highbush Blueberries OR Vaccinium corymbosum

One or both of these terms will be in your search results. OR will give us the potential for more results. The operator OR is particularly helpful when you want to broaden your search, especially when you want to include synonyms.


Search example: Highbush Blueberries OR Vaccinium corymbosum 



Now our search results must have either Highbush Blueberries or Vaccinium corymbosum in the search results as well as anti-inflammatory.

AND will give us less results but it will make our results more useful.

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: grape*

Returns results:

Search example: *process*

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.


Step 4: Write your search statement:

My search statement will look like:

"highbush blueber*" OR "vaccinium corymbosum"



This will find all of the results for: Highbush Blueberries, Highbush Blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum, anti-inflammatory, inflammatory, anti-inflammatories, anti-inflammatory

* My personal search preference is to keep my concepts grouped together and write in the Boolean Operators by hand (e.g. my first line is the Highbush Blueberries group and the second is the anti-inflammatory group).

WSU Library catalog search interface utilizing our keywords and Boolean Operators

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