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Get started with research

Learn how to use the library resources to get started with your research.

Develop a search strategy

Defining your research topic, and identifying the main concepts and keywords, are the first steps toward developing an effective search strategy. The next step is to connect your keywords in a way that tells the library’s Discovery search tool or library databases what to search and find.

The search terms or keywords you use to search are what determine the results you get. When you have two or more main concepts in a topic, such as "children" and "advertising" and "mental health", put the word AND in between them in all capital letters:

• children AND advertising AND mental health

Typing this search into Discovery or a database will find sources that include all of those concepts. When you have similar keywords or synonyms to describe one concept, put an OR in all capital letters in between each keyword so that you find sources that include either or both of those terms:

• children OR kids OR youth OR teenager

Use both AND and OR to put your search together so that it is specific and focused. To do this, put brackets around each main concept and its related keywords connected by OR:

• (children OR kids or youth OR teenager)

Then you can add the second concept “advertising” and third concept “mental health” with AND, making sure to put brackets around the related terms for each of those concepts as well. This is your search strategy:

• (children OR kids or youth OR teenager) AND (advertising OR media OR commercial) AND "mental health"

Using this search strategy in Discovery and/or a library database will retrieve sources that include all of your main concepts and their related keywords. You could make the search even more specific adding on another concept and its related terms in brackets connected by AND. Keep in mind that the more concepts you add to a search, the fewer results you will get because you are narrowing your search. You will likely need to try out many searches based on your research topic as the research process is iterative.