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Research Writing - Oakland Campus: Searching Tips

This support guide was created for students in ENGCMP 0450: Research Writing and the Professional Writing Program

Selecting Keywords

The search terms or keywords you use to search are what determine the results you get.  Here's a good exercise to help you generate keywords:

1. Express your topic in a topic sentence: “What is the effect of television violence on children?”

2. Generate keyword search terms by identifying the main ideas or concepts within that topic sentence:  “What is the effect of television violence on children?” = Effect, Television, Violence, or Television violence and Children

3. Expand your search terms by brainstorming related terms or synonyms that describe your main ideas:

  • Television; media, TV,
  • Violence; aggression,
  • Effect; influence,
  • Children; toddlers, youngsters, boys, girls

Searching Techniques

Article databases, online library catalogs, and many popular search engines share several general searching techniques. Once you master these common searching techniques, you will save yourself time and find more relevant results.

Combining Search Terms

You can create complex search strategies by combining keywords using the linking words AND, OR and NOT. For example, if your search terms are mathematics and curriculum:

  • AND – Narrows and focuses the search results. The search mathematics and curriculum will bring only results where both the terms mathematics and curriculum are present.
  • OR – Broadens the search results. Using or will bring results where the term mathematics is present, or results where curriculum is present, or results where both terms are present. Or is useful if you have more than one way to refer to a concept -- Example: elementary or primary.
  • NOT Excludes anything where the term after the NOT is present.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar provides a general search of scholarly literature across many disciplines and sources. If you use Google Scholar within the Oakland campus computing network, many Scholar results link into ULS full –text access.

Google Scholar Search