Once you have decided on the keywords for your topic, you must tell the database something about how you want to combine your keywords by creating a search string. The example below shows the search string for the topic which uses multiple advanced search techniques.

How Did The United States Use Rationing/Ration Books During World War II?

“United States” AND (ration* OR “ration books”) AND “World War Two”

StrategyWhat it Looks Like
Start with Keywords: United States, rationing, ration books, World War Two,
+ Quotes around Phrases: “united states” “ration books” “World War Two”
+ Connect Ideas with AND: “united states” AND “ration books” AND “World War Two”
+Add Synonyms with ( ) and OR : “united states” AND (rationing OR “ration books”) AND “World War Two”
+ * for multiple endings: “united states” AND (ration* OR “ration books”) AND “World War Two”

Advanced Search Techniques

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT) tell the database how you want your keywords to be connected in the search.

Use them to narrow (AND), broaden (OR), or exclude (NOT) keywords in your results.

Example: dog AND cat

Example: Teacher OR School

Example: classroom NOT college


Double quotation marks ” ” allow you to search for an exact phrase.

Use them to narrow your search results to more relevant items using an exact phrase.

Example: “affirmative action”


Nesting allows you to group your search terms and to dictate the order in which the operators will be carried out. Specifically, everything within the parentheses ( ) is searched first.

Use them to keep broadening your search and keep synonyms together in your results.

Example: (ration OR garden)

Wild Card

With this technique, you cut off your search term to its root and add a symbol, the asterisk *, that instructs the computer to search for all words that begin with those letters, no matter which letters may follow.

Use them to broadens your search for words with various word endings that will work such as nurse, nurses, or nursing.

Example: nurs*

Citation Chaining

Once you find a few good articles on your topic, follow the citation chain to find newer or older articles in the same scholarly conversation

  • Check the references, especially cited in the introduction, for older articles
  • Search Google Scholar for the article and click on the (Cited by) link underneath to find newer articles that cite this article in their references