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PHIL 102 (Zirlott): Research Tips

Search Strategy Help

Here are some links to Internet sources that can help you build powerful search strategies!

Identify Key Concepts To Search!

Key concepts are those words or phrases that address the major themes of your topic. They are the words or phrases or both that you can draw directly from your research question.

For example: What ethical questions do "designer babies" raise?

Obviously, ethical questions and designer babies are the initial key concepts to enter into the search box when looking for books or journal articles in OneSearch or the library databases. Ethical questions could be simplified to ethics for more efficient searching.

While you search you will encounter synonyms, acronyms, and alternative terms as subject terms, or words in titles, such as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, PGD, etc. These alternative terms are also good words to add to your keyword arsenal.

When searching more than one keyword at a time using library research tools, it is best practice to combine the terms with the Boolean connectors AND, OR, NOT.

ethics AND (designer babies OR PGD)


See the video below!

Putting you search terms together using Boolean operators

Unlike basic Google, the library catalog and research databases are not good with natural language or phrase searching. Just entering a string of keywords into a search box won't work well either.

What works best are Boolean operators - the combining words AND,OR,NOT between search terms. This video from the University of Auckland Libraries in Australia explains Boolean operators very well, and shows how they work in library catalogs, databases, and even Advanced Google.