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Research Fundamentals: 3a. Use Your Keywords to Build Search Statements

Proceed through each tab in this guide and learn how to become more efficient and skilled at library research.

Putting Your Keywords Together Into A Search Statement

Watch this brief video to learn how to create a search statement from your keywords. 

Odyssey Learning Project. (2020, February 17). From keywords to databases [Video].  YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vndqnNa0BaQ&feature=youtu.be

Once you have identified your keywords (and brainstormed additional synonyms and related concepts) it's time to put the keywords together into a search statement!

 

Important database search tips: 

  • Use quotation marks around exact phrases 
    • This tells the database you only want results where the words are together in that exact order, with that exact spelling
      • Example: enter cardiovascular disease as "cardiovascular disease"

 

  • To search multiple keywords or phrases together, join them together with AND
    • ‚ÄčThis will return results with all the words entered
      • Example:  "animal testing" AND "United States"

 

  • To search multiple synonyms of one concept at once, put OR between the keywords 
    • This tells the database that you will accept either word
      • Example: "fast fashion" OR sweatshops
      • This will get you results with either the phrase "fast fashion" or the word "sweatshops"

 

  • Use parentheses to group terms when your search statement includes more than one type of search operator (AND, OR)
    • This tells the database how to interpret your search statement
      • Example:  (elderly OR "older adults" OR geriatric) AND (loneliness OR "social isolation")
      • This will get you results that have BOTH any of the three words for elderly AND  either of the terms for loneliness 

 

  • If you are still struggling to find results, make sure that you are using the language that other authors use!
    • Do some background searching on Google and Wikipedia to make sure you are using the correct terminology for your keywords
    •  Scan any relevant articles you find for other keywords that you can use

 

Keyword search statement examples (with the original research question)

 

Should exposure to green spaces be prescribed for mental health conditions? 

"green spaces" AND "mental health"

"natural environment" AND (anxiety OR depression)

"urban nature" AND psychology

 

 

How does training police in meditation impact excessive force incidents?

meditation AND police AND "excessive force"

"mindfulness training" AND "law enforcement" AND "police brutality"

 

 

Does taking online courses have a positive or negative effect on a student's GPA? 

"online courses" AND "student success"

 "online learning" AND "academic performance" 

 "online education" AND "student outcomes" 

 "distance education" AND "grade point average"

 

 

Are artificial sweeteners effective in preventing weight gain? 

("artificial sweeteners" OR "synthetic sweeteners" OR "non-nutritive sweeteners" OR "non-caloric sweeteners") AND (weight OR obesity OR "food intake" OR metabolism)