Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

HIST 2231 - T. Mendoza: Keywords & Search Strategies

Search Strategies

Searching for articles and books in the library requires skill, practice, and patience! If you only use the internet for resources, you are missing carefully chosen collections of high-quality information provided by the library through databases. Although these sources are found using an internet connection, you are not searching the Web (WWW). The databases contain information that is not found on the internet, that is high quality, that is accessible 24/7, and what your professor is wanting to see in your essays! 

The skills needed for searching databases are identifying keywords and understanding Boolean operators.

Identifying Keywords

Keywords are the words you type into a search box to search for information on your topic. Begin by using the words you used in your research question, then think of synonyms for those words.

Combine keywords to narrow your topic. For example if you are interested in slavery and you do a search in the library catalog for the term slavery, you will get results about slavery from all over the world as well as current forms of slavery such as human trafficking. But, if you really only want to find information on slavery in the United States, use slavery AND United States to narrow your results.

Check out this tutorial from the Leonard Lief Library at Lehman College CUNY.

Boolean Search Techniques

Boolean Search TechniquesBoolean Operators (also referred to as logical operators or connectors) are words used to connect your search terms. Use these search techniques to either narrow or expand your search in a database.

AND: The operator AND will retrieve search results that contain all of the search terms used.  Use AND to narrow your search by retrieving more specific results.

OR: The operator OR will retrieve search results that contain any of the search terms used. Use OR to expand your search by broadening the range of resources. OR is most useful when using synonyms as search terms.

NOT: The operator NOT will eliminate search results that contain a search term. Use NOT to narrow your results by excluding resources with a particular search term.