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BIO216 Research Skills Guide: Find Information

Search techniques

Boolean operators allow you to fine tune your search by using the operators "AND", "OR" and "NOT" to combine keywords and expand or narrow your search. The diagram below shows you how Boolean operators refine a search. 

Truncation

Truncation allows you to search for all variants of a word. The truncation symbol is usually an asterisk (*), inserted after the last letter in the stem word.

The table below shows you how to use a truncation symbol and how it affects what a database searches:

Truncated word:      What the database will search for:     
mammal* mammal, mammals, mammalian
ecolog* ecology, ecological
river* river, rivers, riverine
 

Subject headings and author keywords

Most articles include a list of subject headings or author keywords that convey the overarching themes covered in the article. You can use the subject headings or author keywords from a relevant article to identify additional keywords and common terms.

Below is an example of a database records from EBSCOhost Education Research Complete.

In many databases these are also links that you can click and follow.

 screenshot depicting an EBSCOhost database record, including subject headings as hyperlinks

Wildcards

Wildcard symbols enable you to substitute a symbol for one letter of a word. They are particularly useful for words with multiple spellings. 

The wildcard symbol is typically a question mark (?), inserted in place of the variable letter.

Wildcard word:       What the database will search for:      
Organi?ation Organisation, Organization
Wom?n Woman, Women