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The Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 2a. Search Strategies

This guide walks you through the steps of the research process.

General Search Strategies

The easiest way to search for information electronically is to enter a couple of keywords into the search box of the resource and see what type of results you get. This strategy, however, will often result in too few, too many, or irrelevant results.

In order to retrieve the most relevant results, you will need to construct a search string.  A search string is a combination of keywords, truncation symbols, and boolean operators you enter into the search box of an electronic library resource or an Internet search engine.

Truncation/Wildcard Symbols

Truncation or wildcard symbols can broaden your search and allow you to look for variations of words. For example, searching on sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc. 

Note: The truncation symbol varies depending on the electronic resource you are searching. For more information, consult the database’s “help” or “search tips” pages.


Are you finding too much information or perhaps not finding enough? Use alternative, narrower, or broader keywords to vary your results.

Boolean Operators

Operator Examples Results

business AND ethics
cookery AND Spain

Retrieves records that contain    
ALL of the search terms.

hotels OR motels
www OR world wide web
theater OR theatre

Retrieves records that contain
ANY of the search terms, but
does not necessarily include
all of them.

java NOT coffee
Clinton NOT (William OR Bill)    

Excludes records containing
the second search term.

How can I refine my search with the GALILEO search feature?

There are several ways to refine your search so that the results are more precise and more limited in number.
  • Select a different subject category in order to search a different set of databases.
  • Start your search by selecting a subject category from the Browse by Subject page in order to search databases more relevant to your topic.
  • Limit search to full text by selecting the “Full Text Search” within the “Search Options” area.
  • Limit search to a specific date range by entering a particular date range within the “Search Options” area.
  • Narrow or broaden a search using the following Boolean operators:
    • Use OR to connect similar terms. OR broadens your search. Example: dog or canine
    • Use AND to connect separate concepts. AND narrows your search.
      doctor and surgery
    • Use NOT to eliminate separate concepts. NOT narrows your search.
      kennedy not politician
  • Reword search term.
    avian influenza instead of bird flu
  • Truncation
    Use * to replace one or more characters at the end of a search term.
    Example: coopera* (retrieves cooperate, cooperative, cooperating)
  • Phrase search
    Use “quotation marks” around your search term to help limit most results to exact phrase.

Note: Results may vary using these methods since different databases have different parameters. Searching in a specific database’s native interface offers more controlled search functionality for refining search terms.

Subject Guide

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Michele Nicole Johnson
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College of Coastal Georgia

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