F&M College Library

SPA 371: Spanish for Health Professions

Starting Your Search

1. articulate your research question or topic.

2. brainstorm keywords.

3. construct search strings.

Developing Keywords

Constructing Search Strings

Remember: Databases don't speak English. 

Construct search strings to effectively find resources in databases. 

Research Question: "What effect does media have on teens' body image?"

A good example of a search string: 
"body image" AND media AND teens

A not great example of a search string: 
media's effects on teen body image

Tips for Constructing Search Strings

  • Use AND, OR, or NOT to expand, refine, or edit your search. AND will join two words or phrases together and search for both. NOT will search for one topic but not the other. And OR will search for either term you enter. 
  • Use quotes around phrases with two or more words. 
  • Boil your research question down into main ideas. For example, in the research question above, the main topics are: body image, teens, and media. 
  • Try using wildcards if you're looking for multiple spellings of a word. Like this: search wom*n, and you'll get results for woman, women, and womyn. 

Search Tips for Literature Reviews

  • Broaden your search. 
    • Use the boolean operator "AND" to tie in related search terms, or use "OR" if you have two terms that you are using for the same topic. 
  • Follow the citations in articles you do find. 
    • Do a little digging to see if the articles they site would be useful for your own research. 
  • Use a broad mix of keywords. 
    • Different articles can refer to the same topics in different ways, so it's important to brainstorm your keywords and mix up the phrasing or subtopics, if applicable.
  • Ask for help. 
    • If you're still struggling to find articles, schedule a meeting with your librarian for more help.