Skip to main content

NSC316 Neuroscience in the Public Eye: Search Tips

Fall 2014, M. Harrington

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. 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 find articles on the selective erasing of mouse memory.

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

EXAMPLE: mouse, memory, erase

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.



 *=rodents, rodent, etc.


*=wildcard; will find variations in a word. In this case, those after the letter "r." 

Add other terms to narrow topic further:


*=erasure, erasing, etc. 



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:

(mouse OR mice) AND memory AND eras*

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


Need Help?

Have questions?
Contact Rocco Piccinino, x2951,

Or use Ask a Librarian! to live (chat) during Reference Desk hours.