Secrets of My Research Success:
Search Statements

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Mike:

Now we need to put the various terms you have identified together into a search statement. We can incorporate various searching techniques to help refine the process. Learning the basics of how to search will save you much time and frustration, and these techniques are the same for any research you may be doing, no matter what the topic might be.

Let's first look at Finding and Combining Search Terms: Using AND. If you want to include more than one keyword in your search, use the word 'AND' between each of the terms. AND, along with OR-which we will discuss in a moment-are sometimes referred to as Boolean Operators. Using AND serves to narrow a search by telling the database that both terms must appear in any search results it returns to you. For example, if you want to locate information on corporate takeovers and effects, you can put the two together using 'AND'. You can also add the term employees using another 'AND':

corporate takeovers AND effects AND employees

You can further expand this search by also including the synonyms we listed, using the word OR between them.

corporate takeovers OR mergers OR acquisitions

AND

effects OR consequences OR impacts OR results

AND

employees OR workers

Keep in mind that using OR with search terms will provide more search results because you are telling the database that any of these terms must appear in your search results.

You can group synonyms by putting parentheses around the terms. This lets the database know that this is one concept, but it could be any of these words. For example:

(corporate takeovers OR mergers OR acquisitions) AND (effects OR consequences OR impacts OR results) AND (employees OR workers)

When parentheses are used, the terms inside the parentheses are searched first. If more than one set of parentheses are included, usually the one on the left is searched first. For some databases there is no difference in the search results between using parentheses and not using them.

If you want to search for an exact phrase that has two or more words, you will need to put Quotation Marks around the words in the phrase.

("corporate takeovers" OR mergers OR acquisitions) AND (effects OR consequences OR impacts OR results) AND (employees OR workers)

Another useful trick is to truncate search terms. When you truncate a term you type the root of a word, and then follow directly with a truncation symbol, usually an asterisk (*), but check the database HELP screen to determine the symbol for that database. So, for example, if we type in corporat followed by an asterisk (*) the database will search for all words that begin with 'corporat' such as: corporate, corporation, corporations, etc.

Although this is a useful tool, especially if you want to retrieve results with all possible word endings; it may also add unrelated items to your results. Some databases may not allow truncated words if the possible results are too large--- if this happens add more of the root word and search again.

Quentin:

Fantastic! Thanks so much for the refresher! So, I start out building a search statement by using the key concepts or keywords from my research question. Those would be:

Corporate takeovers, effects, and employees.

Then I add alternate terms or synonyms for my keywords:

For corporate takeovers alternate keywords could be mergers and acquisitions, for effects, I could use consequences, impacts, and results, and for employees, I will try using workers.

Next, I use the asterisk symbol to truncate words, so that the database will find all possible variations on the word endings:

corporat*, takeover*, merg*, acqui*, effect*, consequence*, impact*, result*, employ*, and work*

The next step is to be sure to enclose corporate takeovers in quotation marks so the database searches the two words as a phrase:

"corporat* takeover*"

Then I join all the related terms with OR and enclose them with parentheses. That way I will get articles that have any of those terms in them. Using OR will help expand my search by looking for my keywords as well as alternate keywords or synonyms.

("corporat* takeover*" OR merg* OR acqui*)

(effect* OR consequence* OR impact* OR result*)

(employ* OR work*)

Finally, I add AND to join all my key concepts together as I want to include all 3 key concepts in my search. Now my search statement will look like this:

("corporat* takeover*" OR merg* OR acqui*) AND (effect* OR consequence* OR impact* OR result*) AND (employee* OR work*)

Now I can start searching in some relevant databases for information on corporate takeovers and their effects on employees.