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Identifying keywords can help you search for resources. A keyword can help narrow or broaden your result. You need to think of different ways that someone might describe the topic you are researching. 

Keeping a list of keywords you are using or have used can help with your research.

Limiters, truncation and phrases

Databases are only as smart as the information you give them. These words used in your search can help you find more helpful resources:


  • Narrows your results, tells database that all search terms must be present
  • AND is often implied between each word
  • example: College AND Cost AND Textbooks


  • Broadens your results, tells database to search any of the terms you put
  • connects items
  • example: College OR Money OR Textbooks


  • Narrows your results, tells databases to ignore resources using certain words or phrases
  • excludes words
  • example: College NOT Textbooks


You can search for part of a word. This is great for root words that have multiple endings. It depends on the database but most use the * symbol

  • examples: Child* = children, child, childhood


  • Some databases recognize phrases without you doing anything, others don't. Generally you use quotation marks to signify its a phrase. 
  • If you don't use them the database may assume there is an unwritten AND
    • ex: Animal AND Protection vs. "Animal Protection"
    • these two different searches will get you very different results