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 water pollution on freshwater amphibian populations?"
2. Generate keyword search terms by identifying the main ideas or concepts within the topic sentence: "What is the effect of water pollution on freshwater amphibian populations?" --> effect, pollution, freshwater, amphibian
3. Expand your search terms by brainstorming related terms or synonyms that describe your main ideas:
Searching for exact phrases instead of individual words can focus your search so that more results are directly relevant to your topic. Different databases and search engines accomplish this in different ways. Two common ones are:
Remember: Exact phrase searches can focus your results, but they can also miss some relevant results. Searching the phrase "Atlantic coastal wetlands" will not find wetlands of the Atlantic coast or coastal wetlands of North Carolina, both of which are relevant.
You can create complex search strategies by combining keywords using the linking words AND, OR, and NOT. For example, if your search terms are biodiversity and wetlands: