When performing research for your topic in databases, it's important to search for the terms that will result in the most relevant results. Sometimes using subject headings (standard terms used in a particular database to describe a concept or idea) is the most efficient method. However, a topic is often complex and requires additional searching approaches. One searching approach is the Keyword search - which finds words anywhere in the database record (title, author, abstract, etc.) not just the subject headings.
Identify Key Concepts
Write down your research question and circle or underline the words or terms that express the main idea/s.
Develop a List of Search Terms and Related Terms
AND - narrow your search down by combining two or more terms. All terms must be present.
Example: monks and buddhist and sri lanka
OR - broaden your search by combining synonyms or alternative forms of words. Any of the words must be present. Write down any commonly used alternatives to/synonyms for your search terms and connect them with or
Example: monks or monasticism
NOT - excludes terms from a search; narrows and focuses a search Example: buddhism not mahayana
TRUNCATION (aka wildcard) - symbol used at the end of a word or rootword to retrieve variant word endings, including plurals; adds flexibility and depth to your search; makes a search more efficient by cutting down on the number of searches. example: monast* retrieves: monastery, monasteries, monasticism, monastic
Many (not all) databases use the * as the truncation symbol. Check the online Help in each database to find which symbol is used.
Put the search together. Make your search more efficient by using the "and" "or" connectors in one search.
Depending on the database you use, you may need to make your search more general or more specific.
Book titles are often quite general, and usually it is not possible to search the contents of the book.
In the Library Catalog, search terms may need to be more general.
Journal and newspaper article titles tend to be much more specific, so in an article database, you might have to adjust your search and add more specific search terms.
Book which includes a chapter on the role of Buddhist monks in society but has a very general title: Theravada Buddhism: continuity, diversity and identity
Journal article title about the same topic which is quite specific: "Toward an Action-Oriented Pedagogy: Buddhist Texts and Monastic Education in Contemporary Sri Lanka"