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Graduate Research Support: Searching Strategies

Gradaute Research Help

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Visit the Research Help Desk on the main floor of the Library for help.

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How-to guides and videos on writing, research and citation 

Quick review of keywords

Ruler and pencil drawingPick your keywords

Figure out your Keywords: Your keywords are the main concepts or ideas of your paper. For example the keywords for a paper on "youth employment in Canada” would be:

  • Youth

  • Employment

  • Canada


Find synonyms

Use related words and phrases (synonyms): There are multiple ways to express the same concept.

Employment can also be:

  • job

  • work

  • career


Youth can be:

  • Adolescents

  • Teenagers

  • Young people

Understanding AND / OR / NOT

Use "AND" and "OR"  (in capitals) to pull you keywords and synonyms together (these are known as Boolean operators)! This way you can search for multiple concepts effectively.


AND = finds sources that contain all keywords

    Youth AND Employment AND Canada


OR = finds sources that contain at least one of these keywords

    Youth OR teenagers OR young people


NOT = eliminates or ignores a related term that you do not want in your search

Java NOT coffee  (for when you want JAVA the computer language)

Employment  NOT Farms  (for when you want to exclude sources about employment on farms )


Tips and tricks for your keywords

Use quotation marks “....”:

If one of your synonyms contains more than one word (e.g., First Nations) use quotation marks (" ") around the whole phrase to ensure the words are searched for together and not separately.

    For Example:  "First Nations" or “personal identity”


Shorten, or truncate, a keyword by using the symbol "*".

For example, canad* will retrieve results for the words Canada, Canadian, and Canadians. Truncating means you don't have to search for these words separately by typing each one individually.

For Example:  

Disabilit*  =   will find Disability, Disabilities

Wom*n   =   will find women and woman

colo*r   =   will find colour, color

politic*   =   politics, politically, political…

anorex*   =   anorexia, anorexic


Pulling It All Together

Using parentheses ( ), called nesting, to group the related terms. Next, use OR between each related keywords 


For Example: 

( Keywords 1 OR related term ) AND (Keyword 2 OR related term) AND (Keyword 3 OR related term)


(Teenagers OR adolescents) AND (beliefs OR attitudes) AND (alcohol NOT drug*).

Advanced tips for finding more results



Graduate Boolean Quiz