Planning out your search strategy -- especially search terms you want to use -- can make the research process easier. When picking out search terms (alternatively can be called "key words"), look at your research topic or research question along with any smaller questions or parts, and pick out the significant nouns or ideas. These will be your search terms. You should also think of all of the various ways those nouns or ideas could be expressed - if one variation doesn't work, try another.
You can also look for the controlled vocabulary that the tool you are searching uses (i.e. the catalog and library databases). Controlled vocabulary is a set of assigned terms to describe an item that are used consistently across the tool to make searching easier. These can be described as subjects, subject terms, or thesaurus terms.
Also, identify discipline terminology and jargon. How does the specific field you are researching in refer to a topic or idea?
Keep a list of search terms that you find to be useful for your topic/question that you can use to search various tools to find information and resources.
Boolean Search Terms
Use Boolean terms AND, OR, and NOT to connect multiple search terms (i.e. policy AND "net neutrality") to better focus your search. The way that you connect the search terms will impact the results that are returned in the search tool.
AND will return results that include both search terms you enter. OR will return results that mention either of the search terms you enter. Using NOT will exclude search results based on a specific term.
Does one of your search terms contain multiple words? Use quotation marks around the search term to ensure that those words are searched together as a phrase. For example, putting the phrase "social media" in quotes will return results that mention those two words together.
Many search tools let you utilize what is known as truncation searching, often represented in a search tool by an asterisk*. Use this option to help search for variants of a word at the same time. For example, searching for child* will search for child, children, childhood, etc. at the same time!
There are various tools that you can work with to manage the citations and other information you will be collecting and you will have to figure out what works for you.
Some people find it easier to create a document (Word Document or Google Doc) to compile citations to sources they are reviewing for consideration and start building a bibliography. You can use the citation generators that appear in many article databases (such as in EBSCO, ProQuest, etc.) to retrieve a citation to specific sources you are using to include in your bibliography. It is always important to double check any citation you get online for accuracy; capitalization errors, missing information, or other minor errors do sometimes occur. Examples of accurate citations can be found for the particular citation style you are using in the style guides or from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).
Citation management tools can also be very helpful in organizing your sources.
RefWorks is a citation management tool available through the Bentley Library. You can create an account in RefWorks to start managing your citations.
If you need help getting started with RefWorks, we have a research guide available: