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ENGL 112: English Composition II

Instructor: Carolyn Embree, Spring Semester 2023

STEP 1: Identify the major concepts

Articulate your topic as a statement/question and select the main concepts in order to construct an effective research strategy.

Example research statement/question:
Animal experimentation is ethical because it is critical to the advancement and protection of human health and well-being.

Main concepts:
Animal experimentation, ethical, and human health

STEP 2: Consider synonyms or related keywords

Make a list of relevant keywords for each concept of the research topic/research statement/thesis statement. 
Identify synonyms, related terms, or subject headings, when appropriate.

Animal experimentation     <<<< Concept 1
animal testing
animal rights

Ethical    <<<< Concept 2            

Human health    <<<< Concept 3

STEP 3: Construct a search strategy (a search string)

Combine the concepts with their keywords to construct a search strategy using the "AND" and "OR" operators.


(animal experimentation OR animal testing OR animal rights).   


(ethical OR moral)     


(human health OR well-being)

STEP 4: Type the search strategy and search in a database

Access and conduct a search strategy in library database(s).

Example illustration of an initial search strategy using the Academic Search Complete database:

Searching Techniques: Boolean Operators

Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) connect keywords together to bring back more targeted search results. You will often see these capitalized in long search strings to see them more clearly.

  • AND narrows your search and will retrieve search results that have the specific keywords you in a paper, retrieves less results
  • OR broadens your search. This is often used to connect similar keywords, such as synonyms and related terms, retrieves more results
  • NOT can be used to exclude similar but significantly different idea. Use with caution because relevant search results may be missing.

See example of operators:


Searching Techniques: Phrase Searching & Truncation

Truncation (often an asterisk*) will bring back words that start with the root word you provide. For example:

  • environment* will retrieve results that include "environment", "environmental", "environmentalist"
  • finger* will retrieve "finger", "fingers", "fingerprinting"
  • Be Cautious: if you truncate too much, you will bring back many results that you don't want. For example, if you truncate computer to com* you will also get results for "community", "communication", "communist", and "computer"

Phrase searching includes enclosing a phrase with quotation marks (" ").

For example:  "genetically modified foods" OR "transgenic organisms" OR "genetically modified organisms"