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Research Project

Use this in whole or in part to guide you in creating a great research project.

General Strategies

The easiest way to search for information electronically is to enter a couple of keywords into the search box of the search tool and see what type of results you get. 

For example, to find information on the ability of Bell Telephone companies to compete in long-distance markets, you might use just these keywords and phrases:    

Bell, telephone, long-distance, competition

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, quotation marks, truncation symbols, and Boolean operators which you enter into the search box of a database or an Internet search engine. 

For example, when searching for information to support the statement Performance enhancing drugs raise serious ethical questions for athletes you could use this search string:

“performance enhancing drugs” AND ethic* AND athlet*

Look below for more information on quotation marks, truncation symbols and boolean operators.

Double Quotation Marks & Truncation

Double quotation marks (" ") around a phrase will hold the words together and force the search engine to find the exact phrase rather than just the individual words in the phrase. ex. "global warming"   "The Scarlet Letter"

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

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

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching is the traditional way to search for information in most online databases and on the Internet. Boolean operators or connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, are used to create phrases and concepts based on specific rules of search logic. 

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 Bill
     Excludes records containing the second search term.

Google Search Strategies

If your initial search query does not produce the desired results, try these search strategies, and check out Google's special search features.

Searches are not case sensitive. Barack Obama and barack obama will retrieve the same results.
Results typically include each word or punctuation mark included in the search. Keep searches simple and descriptive. Use as few terms as possible. Avoid natural language searches as they can limit your results. Use colorado statehood instead of when did colorado first become a state
Google automatically truncates search terms. To prevent automatic truncation, use a + sign in front of each term.

A search on child retrieves results with children and childcare.

A search on +child retrieves results with only child.

Use double quotation marks (" ") to search terms as a phrase and narrow your results. Google will only retrieve results that have those exact terms in the exact order typed. A search on "Barack Hussein Obama II" will retrieve only those sites that refer to Obama by his full name. Sites that refer to him as simply Barack Obama may be overlooked.
Use the site: feature to limit your results to a specific website or class of websites.

The search cloning will only retrieve articles about cloning from the online version of the Wall Street Journal.

A search on cloning will only retrieve results within the government domain.

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