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How to Research: Combine Search Words

Just getting started on a research paper or project? Don't know where to start? This is the guide for you!

Combine Search Words

A keyword search is a great way to start your search.

Narrow or broaden your keyword search by using search strategies such as:

  • connectors
  • nesting
  • truncation

Basic Search Strategies

Using Phrase Searching

When do you use it? When you want specific words to appear together.

How do you do it? Put quotation marks around the phrase to be searched.

Example: "women in advertising"

Using Synonyms

When do you use them? Use synonyms to broaden or narrow your search.


  • "women in advertising"
  • "females in advertising"

These searches would give you different results.


What do you use connectors (also called Boolean operators) for?

To broaden or narrow your search by linking together two or more terms.

The most common connectors are: AND, OR, and NOT.

Using AND

AND narrows a search; you get fewer results because both words must be present in the records found.

Use AND to combine different concepts in one search:

computer AND history

Using OR

OR broadens a search; you get more results because OR looks for each of the words separately, as well as all words when found together.  

OR is often used to link together related words.

Example: teenager OR youth OR adolescent

Using NOT

NOT narrows your search; you get fewer results becuase it excludes terms from your search.

Example: pluto NOT disney


Nesting keeps concepts that are alike together, and tells a search engine to search the terms in the parentheses first.

Using Nesting

Use parentheses to group concepts when you use two or more connectors.

Example: alcohol AND (adolescents OR teenagers)

This search will retrieve records on alcohol and adolescents, as well as records on alcohol and teenagers.


Truncation characters are like wildcards.

Using Truncation

Adding a truncation character to the stem of a word will tell the search engine to find that stem plus anything that comes after it.

Example: child* will return records that contain child



This saves you time when searching, since you don't have to search for child, childhood, and children separately.  

You can sometimes use truncation in the middle of a word, too.

Example: wom*n or wom$n will return records that contain women and woman

The symbol used to truncate a word depends upon the search tool you are using. Check out the help feature of the specific tool to find out if truncation is supported and what symbol to use.

Search Strategies Video