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ENGL0900 Critical Reading and Writing: The Academic Essay

Build Strong Searches

1) Be specific.

Use similar terms, synonyms, or specific terminology. For example, instead of using eating disorders you might use anorexia or bulimia. Or, use specific terms like eating disorders in the 1980s among men. Keep a list of keywords that work.

2) Link your terms in specific ways.

Use AND, OR, NOT to control search rankings and results. A better search phrase might be: anorexia AND eating disorders AND 1980s AND men.

3) Get rid of what you don’t need or want.

Since anorexia is a specific type of eating disorder, we really don’t need to include "eating disorders" as well.

4) Broaden terms to capture variation with * (asterisk).

Example, a search for grad* will search for a variety of terms that build on the stem such as graduate, graduating, graduates, etc. 

5) Narrow terms to focus on your topic.

Put quotation marks around phrases or words that should show up in results together, such as "labor union". In this case, a search will be done for both labor and union -- in that order.

6) Control your search

Use parentheses to group similar terms together if you are not sure what term might be used in a search, such as(college OR university). In this case, a search will be done for results that contain either college or university in the results. 

7) Search for phrases

Search for words that should always appear in a particular sequence, search for the entire phrase by using quotation marks. "Eating disorders" will look for those two words as a phrase instead of looking for eating and disorders as separate words.