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Course & Subject Guides

2021 Katz Research and Library Introduction - Oakland Campus

Use this guide to learn about key library resources and services available at Pitt for Master of Science Students

Advanced Search Techniques

Try these advanced search techniques for better results.

Use quotation marks to search for a phrase

["Civil war"] will bring back only results that have the word civil next to the word war. This way you wont get results about civil disputes or the War on Terror.

Add an * at the end of a word to search for all possible endings/suffixes

[teen*] will search for teen, teens, teenager, teenagers

Use Boolean operators AND or OR

[Chicken AND beef] will search for results that have both chicken and beef in them, resulting in fewer matches

[Chicken OR beef] will search for results that have either chicken or beef, resulting in more matches

Tip: If you have any questions about using these advanced search techniques, contact the business librarian.

Developing Keywords

Identify the important nouns or main ideas in your research question. 

  • Research Question: What is the effect of incorrect health information on social media?

Generate synonyms for each main term, along with words that are narrower, broader, and related.

  • Incorrect information: deceit, manipulation, lies, false, slander, misinformation
  • Social media: online, web, internet, web 2.0, online social networks
  • Health: wellness, doctor, physical wellbeing, medical

Start searching and modify your keywords as necessary. 

  • Pay attention to titles, abstracts, and headings used in the results you find helpful.
  • Some databases provide lists of subject terms, subject headings, or keywords for individual sources. See if you can find those to help add to your own list.

Tip: Keep in mind that keywords are tricky, they will evolve and you'll likely come across better ones as you begin searching. The more you search and learn about your topic, the easier it will be to develop keywords.

Watch this video from the University of Houston Libraries to learn more about this process: