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Searching Tips and Tricks: Basic Tips and Tricks

Keyword Searching

Most Information searches start with keywords. Keywords allow you to search with natural language, describing a topic in words that you would actually use.

When choosing keywords you should choose words that are most likely to appear in an article of book that would relate to your topic. You should avoid words that are too common and likely to appear in multiple topics.

Choosing Keywords:

If you are having trouble choosing keywords, it can help to create a Research Plan

Phrase Searching:

When you are using a term that is made up of more than one word, it may be necessary to enter the term as a phrase.  The most common way of doing this is to surround the term with quotation marks.  For example: "fossil fuel." This tells the catalog, database, or search engine that you are only interested in articles where these words appear together and in the correct order. Some databases allow advanced boolean searching which will allow more dynamic ways of searching for phrases.

Boolean logic

By default, all terms in a Summon search are combined with AND: teacher education will return results that contain both terms.

Use OR to expand your search: "teacher education" OR "teacher training" will return results that contain either term.

Use NOT to exclude terms: animal NOT dog will return results that do not include the term dog.


will match any one character. e.g. wom?n will find woman and women

will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word.

e.g. ch*ter will find chartercharacter, and chapter  | temp* will find temptationtempleand temporary


databases use difference symbols for wildcards. Always consult the database's help page.

Google Search tips

The Site Search:

To search within a single site, type site: + (the website you want to search) + (your search terms).

example: solar energy

The Domain Search:

Great for searching only government or foreign resources. Type: domain: + (the domain you want to search) + (your search terms)

example: renewable resources

Limiting your search:

Click on the tabs below the search bar to filter you search by content (e.g. videos, news, images, etc). Click "more" for additional content.

"Search Tools" allows you to limit by Time and miscellaneous website attributes. At the bottom of the page, Google provides and "Advanced Search" which has additional utilities.