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Norwich University Kreitzberg Library

Develop a Research Strategy

There are many benefits to having a research strategy before you delve into searching for resources. What's the biggest reason to develop a research strategy? It saves you time in the long run and helps you find better resources, faster!

What You Will Learn

This guide teaches the different ways you can construct a search to find relevant results for your research. You will learn about connecting kewyords in productive ways, strategies for refining your search and tips for searching more productively. 

Watch the Video

A Constructed Search

search in databases

"social conditions" OR "social aspects"
Israel OR Israeli

Connecting Keywords

Connecting your keywords help you better limit or expand your search for more relevant results. Let’s use a real life example: John and Jane are going out to dinner, but they cannot seem to agree on where to go. John was sushi, but Jane really wants Thai food.

  • If they go with a restaurant that serves sushi AND Thai, they can only got to a restaurant that serves both.
  • A restaurant that serves sushi OR Thai could potentially just serve sushi, just serve Thai, or serve both.
  • Finally, if a restaurant serves sushi NOT Thai, they can only go to the sushi restaurant.

Clearly, John and Jane should go with sushi AND Thai, so both of them can be happy. These connecting words in library databases work the same way!

  • AND will only find articles that contain the words or phrases in both search boxes.
  • OR will find articles that have either one or both of the words or phrases.
  • NOT will not retrieve any articles found with the second, even if the first happens to be in it.

What Are You Asking to Find?

It's also a good idea to consider what you are asking the database to find and thus, where you are searching. This is especially important in databases that search the full-text of all documents, like JSTOR.

You can usually ask the database to search in these places:

  • Key Fields are the default in many databases and typically fairly efficient. Key fields include the full citation, subject headings, and abstract/summary if there is one. 
  • Title can be very useful for narrowing down overwhelming results. Keep in mind it can eliminate perfectly good results where the keyword may not be in the title.
  • Full-text is great when there are not many articles on your subject, but you may need to make your search much more focused.

Other Tips

Putting your search terms in quotes (e.g. "civil war") will search for them only as a phrase.

Adding an asterisk (*) to the end of a root word will locate all words for which that is that root—a good example is patrio* (patriot, patriotic, patriotism, and so on).

Read the database directions or the help page for specific instructions on how to search that database.

Make sure you are spelling things correctly or are there variant spellings? Sometimes it's the little things.

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