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Search Strategies

Keywords: Databases require that you search using keywords, rather than questions. You cannot search "What are the prevention strategies for early childhood obesity" the way you might in Google. The databases search for everything you enter, which means they are also searching for "what" "are" and "the," which could clutter your results, or narrow them too much.

Thus, you must select keywords to search: prevention, early childhood, obesity can be pulled out.

Synonyms: Since the databases will search for ONLY what you enter, often time you have to think of synonyms for your keywords. Early childhood obesity could also be referred to as pediatric obesity, or perhaps infant obesity. Sometimes it's easiest to do multiple searches using these different terms. Other times you might want to use Boolean search terms to use a single search.

Use this worksheet to practice pulling out keywords and thinking of synonyms.

Useful Search Tools:

Quotation Marks: Quotation marks allow you to search for an exact phrase. "Childhood Obesity" will search for occurences of the exact phrase, not articles that have childhood in one place and obesity in another sentence. This can be very useful, but do not assume that it is always required. Especially when there are synonyms for some of your keywords, or if you aren't entirely sure you search terms will get you the correct results, doing the broader search without quotations might be a safer place to start.

Wildcard: Most databases have a wildcard symbol, which allows you to search for all of the variable endings of a root word. For example, educat* will search for educate, education, educational, and educator. However, be careful, because sometimes unrelated words might share the same root. You might want to search for policy or policies, but polic* will also give you police.

Boolean Search Terms: In short, AND, OR, and NOT. For more information about how these work, see this document.

Remember: These databases are not smart like Google. Google will autocorrect and say "I think you meant this." These databases will search for exactly what you type, which means sometimes you have to try a few different things. If you have trouble finding sources, contact a librarian for help.


Zotero is a free standalone program that works with the Chrome, Firefox, or Safari browsers to provide a simple way to save the information for citations, organize that information, and format the information based on a particular citation style.

For more information, consult our guide to Zotero and visit the Zotero website.

General Databases

Architecture Databases


Education Databases

Engineering Databases

Speech Language Pathology Databases


Faith Rusk's picture
Faith Rusk
Building 39, Room B020
Van Ness Campus

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