Get organized as you start your search. You might follow a three step process:
Write down as much information about your topic as possible. Use your lab case study files and online encyclopedias or books to gather background information. and narrow your focus
Try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences. For example:
I would like to learn about the lead in drinking water and its toxic effects.
Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic. For example:
lead, drinking water, toxicity
Generate a list of synonyms for key concepts. Expand your search by expressing your query in a variety of ways. Too many results? Work on focusing your search. Use the asterisk * as a wildcard to search variations. For example: pollut* = (polluted, pollution, pollutants)
Use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies.
Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between concepts. For instance:
(lead) AND (water OR drinking water) AND (health)
Watch video (3 minutes): Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy (UCLA Library)