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SOWK 370 Research Guide: Home/Search Tips

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Sean Henry
Lewis J. Ort Library
Frostburg State University
Frostburg, MD 21532

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Search Strategy Help

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


Welcome to the Library Resource Guide supporting SOWK 370: Introduction to Social Welfare and Social Work! This tabbed guide will help connect you to the FSU Ort Library's resources for researching Social Work and give you tips about how to use them.

This page begins with some search strategy tips. Below you find:

  • Developing a Search Strategy for OneSearch, the Research Databases, or the Library Catalog
  • Boolean: Combining Keywords (video)

Developing a Search Strategy for the Research Databases or the Library Catalog

When searching the library research databases or the catalog, it's good to have a strategy. Unlike Google or other Internet search engines, the databases and the catalog can't interpret natural language or strings of unconnected words. You should identify the key concepts in your thesis or research question and then brainstorm for a few alternative terms and synonyms that go along with them. Then you can connect and combine those terms in different ways using Boolean (see video in box below).

For example, what if you were researching the topic:

Social work with substance abuse

The key concepts are obviously the words I underlined:

social work substance abuse

 It's good to brainstorm for a few synonyms and related terms for your key concepts. They may also be helpful in your search!

social work: substance abuse
social workers, social services, counseling, etc. substance use, drug use, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, addiction, etc.

Now I can develop either a basic search statement:

social work AND substance abuse

Or a more advanced search statement, throwing in some related terms and synonyms in parentheses:

(social work OR social services) AND (substance abuse OR drug abuse)

Find out why I combined terms with AND and OR in the video below (capitalization and bold type just for emphasis)!

Boolean: Combining Keywords

This YouTube video from the University of Auckland, New Zealand demonstrates how to combine search keywords using the Boolean AND, OR, and NOT. It also shows you how to apply Boolean searching in a variety of database and catalog search screens.