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ENGL 1100: Setting Up a Successful Search

Setting up a successful first search

 

Every first search is an educated guess about what search terms will best connect you with the articles and books you need.  

Before you begin, think about the concepts that will need to be present in the articles and books you need.  For example, if I am interested in environmental justice issues related to city planning and sustainability, I will definitely want to include the concepts of "environmental justice, "city planning," and "sustainability" in my search for information.  Our three concepts would be:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
"environmental justice" "City planning"          sustainability      

 

Now that we know what concepts we want to search, we need to think about other terms authors may be using to describe those same concepts.  If authors are using different language to describe the concepts, we may not see their articles or books in our search results.  Let’s list out some synonyms and related terms below our concepts.

 

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
"environmental justice" "City planning"          sustainability      
poor people & the environment "urban planning" "environmental policy"
"social justice" zoning conservation
ECO-justice "new urbanism"  

Boolean operators

Now we can combine our search terms with Boolean Operators to construct our first search:

"environmental justice" AND ("city planning" OR "urban planning") AND sustainability

If we searched for information using that string of search terms, our search results would show every article and book that references "environmental justice" and sustainability and either "city planning" or "urban planning." 

Build a Sample Search String

Try using the tool below to put together a good search "string" for your first search.  Under "Concept 1," "Concept 2," and "Concept 3," type in three major concepts from your research question.  These are the major concepts you need to see represented in any of the articles and books in your search results.  After you've identified those core concepts, we will think about synonyms, alternate spellings, and different vocabulary that authors might be using to express the same ideas.

 

  Concept 1 AND Concept 2 AND Concept 3
List your core concepts here    


Can you think of any synonyms or alternate spellings for this concept?  If so, type them in below.

 


Can you think of any synonyms or alternate spellings for this concept?  If so, type them in below.


Can you think of any synonyms or alternate spellings for this concept?  If so, type them in below.

List alternate terms for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

You can use single words, or phrases with quotation marks,
or truncated words with the *


OR

OR

OR


OR

OR

OR


OR

OR

OR


Now copy and paste the above Search Strategy into a database search box!

*The Search Strategy Builder was developed by the University of Arizona Libraries(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US).