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SWK 498/749 Social Work & The Law: Getting Started

Improving Your Search Strategy

Improving Your Search Strategy

After you have done some background reading and formulated your research question it is time to begin searching in some of our databases for articles.  This tutorial will help you learn how to select keywords and improve your search strategy.

Click the image to view the video.

Boolean Machine

How Boolean Searching Works

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Combining Search Terms

Combining Search Terms

Different authors use different words to describe similar concepts. When searching for information, it is best to use 2-3 concept keywords instead of your entire topic question or a sentence. The connecting words ("operators") used in computer searching are AND, OR, and NOT

Research Question : "Does fracking cause water pollution?" 

  • First underline the keywords
  • Then begin generating synonyms and related words, from your background research, to help you develop a search strategy
fracking water pollution
hydraulic fracturing underground water contamination
drilling for natural gas aquifers toxins
natural gas wells wells carcinogens
directional drilling domestic water supply flammable water
  • Use these terms when searching or use them to create a search phrase for a search box (even works with Google searching):

(fracking OR directional drilling) AND (aquifers OR wells OR water supply) AND (pollution OR toxins OR carcinogens)

Research Question : "What factors influence identity in multiracial adolescents?"

identity mutiracial adolescents
self-concept biracial teen*
character mixed race youth

(multiracial OR biracial) AND (identity OR self-concept) AND (adolescen* OR teen*)

Narrowing Your Topic

image photo : Question

Narrowing your Topic

Now that you have some background information and some keywords it is time to narrow down your topic.  

  • In your background reference research did you notice the sub-topics in an entry?  These are easy ways to narrow a focus.
    • foster children > family care > kinship care
    • homelessness > veterans > Vietnam
  • Or narrow your question down in other areas:
    • psychological effects
    • sociological
    • historical
    • geographical
    • medical
    • over time
    • within a subgroup