Unlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. So you'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - the KEYWORDS.
Example Topic: What is the relationship between class identity and health outcomes among cancer patients in the US?
The specifics of your topic will matter when selecting sources, but for searching you only need the most essential components.
Keywords: class identity, health outcomes, cancer patients
Most keywords will have synonyms (words that mean the same thing or something very similar) that you can also try out in your searches. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym. The more you read about your topic, the more synonyms you will come across. Keep a list! Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do.
Keep an Eye Out
Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.
Most library databases have search tools and filters built in to help you refine your results. Try some of these:
Look on the left and right of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools and more! (The example pictured to the right is from a OneSearch results list, where the search tools and filters are located on the left-hand side.)
You can evaluate any source using the 5 W's:
Note: for more in-depth info on evaluating your sources, please take a look at LAVC Library's Information Evaluation guide.
Use the operator AND to find only sources that mention both keywords.
This search will bring back fewer results than searching either keyword on its own.
Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords.
This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.
Use the “QUOTES” strategy to search for several words together in a phrase.
This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.
For more help with Advanced Searches, please refer to our Find Articles Guide.
[Note: the example pictured above is from the "advanced search" portion of one of our most popular databases, Academic Search Complete.]