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PHIL240: Ethics: Search Tips

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You may have to put search terms together in different ways to find sources for a paper. Students sometimes tell us they have searched the library and found nothing -- we always recommend trying different keywords. Follow these steps to try again if you have not had a successful search:

1. Try searching in a reference database like Credo, or do an internet search and get an overview of the topic you are researching.

2. Write down "key" words that might help you search -- the words that are used to describe your topic.

3. Search again, using the tips below to format your search. Experiment with different key words.

This works just about every time! It is often better to start out with fewer words in your search and then narrow your results by adding terms.  And remember we are always here to help! Contact a librarian and we'll be happy to assist you with your search. 

Basic Rules

AND narrows your search - useful if you get too many results. The more terms you connect with and, the fewer your results!

OR expands your search - useful if you get too few results. Try using synonyms with or.

( ) Parentheses - Put OR terms in parentheses to search for any of these terms

NOT excludes words from your results. Use sparingly! When you exclude a word, you may be eliminating relevant articles in which the word appears.

" " Quotation Marks - put a phrase or words in quotes to search with words in that exact order

* Asterisk - Also known as truncation or wildcard. Put this at the end of a word to get anything that starts with that word. (Teen* will find teen, teens, teenage, teenager, etc.)

Learn Boolean with Pirates vs. Ninjas (2:57)


Putting it all together

Here is what a search looks like when you put this all together:

1. Start by forming a question that summarizes what you want to know: How does systemic racism impact children's health in America?

2. Pull out the key words: systemic racism, children, health, America

You might also think of synonyms or alternatives to your key words, like child as well as children, or US as well as America.

3. Use the tips above to create a search: "systemic racism" and child* and health and (America or United States or US)

That search will find sources that include:

the exact phrase "systemic racism" (because we put it inside "")


some form of the word child (because we used the *)


either America or United States or US (because we used OR, any of those might appear)


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