Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database,
it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.
Write down as much information about your topic as possible. Answer the following questions:
Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.
EXAMPLE: I would like to learn more about the human heart's response to coffee using an ECG or sphygmomanometer
(blood pressure meter).
STEP 2 Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.
EXAMPLE: human, heart, coffee, ECG, sphygmomanometer
Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search
by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focusing your search.
*=wildcard; will find variations after the last letter of a word.
Add other term(s) to further narrow search
You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between
concepts. For instance:
(human* OR heart) AND (ecg OR electrocardiogram OR sphygmomanometer) AND coffee
Download this worksheet (with bonus search tips!) to help you organize your search strategy.