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Search Terms And Strategies
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Search Terms And Strategies


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  • 1. Search Terms and Strategies
  • 2. Review: The Research Process
    • Do you have a research project?
    • What are the requirements?
    • Do you have a topic for your research project?
    • Develop your topic using sources of background information.
    • Generate keywords for your searches.
    • Search databases, catalogues, and the web.
    • Evaluate what you’ve found.
    • Start writing.
  • 3. Review: Topic Selection & Development
    • Choose a topic that is :
      • Interesting
      • Manageable
    • Choose your area of focus.
    • Refine to a more specific research question.
    • Think about your approach.
    • Think about the types of information sources you will need to answer your research question.
  • 4. Developing Search Terms
    • Subject Dictionaries
      • Dictionary of Environment & Conservation
      • Dictionary of Ecology
      • Dictionary of Water & Waste Management
      • Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Environmental Change
      • McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Environmental Science
    • Subject Encyclopedias & Thesauri
      • Encyclopedia of Energy Available
      • Encyclopedia of Environmental Science & Engineering TD9 .E5 2006 v. 1-2
      • Encyclopedia of Global Change: Environmental Change & Human Society
      • Encyclopedia of Water Science
      • Multilingual Thesaurus of Environmental Terms Z695.1.E62 M85x 1997
  • 5. Hey Karenann, What About Wikipedia?
    • Would I use it as a source for a paper? No. Why not? Ask yourself this. Is the person who’s writing this entry in Wikipedia an expert in his or her field. If you can’t say yes to that question I wouldn’t use it in a paper.
    • Personally, I think Wikipedia is fine if you want some background information for YOURSELF. If I need a refresher on the scientific method or string theory I’d use it. Would I use the Wikipedia entry on the scientific method for my paper on the history of science literacy? No, I’d look elsewhere.
    • Ask your prof.
  • 6. Developing a Search Strategy
    • Use AND to narrow/focus searches
      • Why? Databases and catalogues will retrieve record where all terms connected with AND appear
      • watershed assessment AND riparian buffer
    • Use OR to expand searches
      • Why? Databases and catalogues will retrieve records where either term connected by OR appears.
      • riparian buffer OR riparian environment
    • Use NOT to limit a search to one term and at the same time eliminate another term
      • Why? Not allows you to leave something out that might otherwise be part of your search results.
        • watershed AND pollution NOT nitrates
      • Sometimes AND NOT is used instead of NOT.
      • Use AND NOT/NOT judiciously. You may eliminate something you need.
  • 7. Fine Tune Your Search
    • Truncation uses a symbol, usually an asterisk (*), to retrieve variant endings of a root word.
      • Pollut* will retrieve pollution, polluted, pollutant etc.
      • The vast majority of databases and catalogues use the * to truncate, but some databases use other symbols like # or ?
    • Symbols like the ? or * can also be used to search for variant spellings or plural forms as well.
      • Colo?r will retrieve both color and colour
      • H?emophilia will retrieve both haemophilia and hemophilia
      • Most databases use either the ? or * to indicate a search for variant spellings, but some databases use other symbols like #.
  • 8. Tips to Make Searching Better
    • When searching any catalogue or database enclose phrases in quotation marks.
      • Why? The default function in catalogues and databases is AND. If you do not put the phrase in quotes, the database will break your search up.
      • Let’s take our search, watershed assessment AND riparian buffer. If I don’t put those two phrases in quotes the databases will retrieve records containing: watershed AND assessment AND riparian AND buffer.
        • Try “watershed assessment” AND “riparian buffer”
  • 9. Grouping Like Things Together
    • When grouping like terms together in catalogue or database use parentheses.
      • (“global warming” OR “climate change”)
      • Why? Parentheses “force the order”. They instruct the database/catalogue to search the set in parentheses first.
        • If you sat in algebra class and said, I’ll never use this again…
      • You can still search for phrases using quotation marks, and you can tie groups of parentheses together with AND, OR, AND NOT to create complex searches
  • 10. Put Your Search Together
    • What is your question? This can be assigned by your professor or one your come up with yourself.
      • I’m interested in the effects of agricultural runoff on wetlands
    • Form your search strategy:
      • Using your research question and background information you have collected gather your keywords/key phrases together.
        • runoff, wetlands, effects
      • Identify synonyms for those keywords/key phrases.
        • fertilizers, nitrogen, “paludal environment”, “nonpoint source pollution”, “water quality”, remediation, extraction
  • 11. Put Your Search Together
      • Group synonyms together using parentheses and connect them with OR
        • (effect* OR remediation)
        • (runoff OR “agricultural runoff”)
      • Tie concepts together with AND.
        • wetlands AND (effect* OR remediation) AND runoff
    • Test your search strategy. Does it work?
      • Yes? Well done!
      • No? Try refining your search, simplify your search. Check your spelling.
  • 12. And Finally…
    • At first, choose databases that suit your topic.
    • Be adventurous. Try databases that may not be obvious choices. Studying effects of PCBs in the environment? Try medicine or zoology.
    • Use your keywords in all of the databases you use, but keep an eye on the subjects and keywords that the databases use as well. This will help you build your search.
    • If you can search one database you can use them all.
      • All databases use some kind of keyword search, even those that have their own thesauri like PubMed and ERIC.
    • Don’t limit yourself to just online, full-text articles. Use FindIt@WSU to find if the article is available in print
  • 13. Karenann Jurecki 131 Owen [email_address]