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Tips for Creating a Good Search Statement

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.

 

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 effect 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. 

 

Next up. Build a powerful and efficient search statement

To chain all of your keywords and concepts together, you'll need to utilize Boolean Operators (see below).

Boolean Operators

The Basic Boolean Operators (e.g. how to do thorough and quick searches)

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 dropdown menu that lists three Boolean Operators, AND, OR, NOT.

Picture_of_Boolean_Operator_In_Search_Enginer

 

Boolean Operators

OR

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.

AND

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. It chains your concepts together. 

NOT

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:
Agriculture
Agricultural 
Agribusiness  


Search example: S*food

Returns results:
seafood
soyfood
superfood
superfoods

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.

Web_of_Science_Search_Example

 

Examining and Filtering Your Search Results

 

Examining and Sorting Your Results

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

 

Other database tips:

 

Web_of_Science_Search_Results

 

Click the FindIt @ 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!)

 

Examining and Sorting Your Results

Evaluate, sort, and search your 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

 

Other database tips:

 

Web_of_Science_Search_Results

 

Click the FindIt @ 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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