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EGR100: Engineering for Everyone: Search Tips

Spring 2015, S. Moore

Artemisia Annua

EGR 100 Cover Image

Wikimedia Commons, Released into public domain by author: Jorge Ferreira


The World Wide Web

Search Tips

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. (You can use encyclopedias and other reference books to help gather background information). Answer the following questions:

  • What is your topic?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know? What don't you know?

Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.

EXAMPLE: I would like to learn about the drug Artemisinin, its precursor (Artemisinic acid),
its history, and, in particular, its role and effectiveness in fighting malaria.

Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.

EXAMPLE: Artemisinin, Artemisinic acid, malaria, role, effectiveness

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 focussing your search.

Artemisinic acid

wormwood plant Artemisia annua
Qinghao plant

Jay Keasling


role or use
combination drugs
supply or shortage

*=Wildcard; can be used to search for variations

Ex.  manufactur*

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:

(artemisinin OR artemisinic acid) AND (malaria OR plasmodium) 

Download this worksheet (with bonus search tips!) to help you organize your search strategy.

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