Skip to Main Content



Once you are in a database, you will need to convert your topic or research question into language the computer understands. The following search techniques will help you with this process.

Search Strategies

The first step is to determine keywords that sum up the main concepts of your topic. Keywords are typically nouns or noun phrases. If you phrase your topic as a research question or thesis, you can often pull keywords from the topic sentence.

Example topic: How are tardigrades able to survive in outer space?

Keywords: tardigrades, outer space

Sometimes the keywords from your original topic sentence will not produce the types of results you want. When that happens, try to think of related keywords. These can be other words that have similar meanings, words that are broader (good for when you have too few results), or words that are more specific (good for when you have too many results).

Example related keywords:

Similar: tardigrada, water bears, moss piglets
Broader: space, arthropods
Narrower: space environment, dsup

Truncation (shortening your keyword) makes the database look at other possible forms of a word for which you are searching. Use truncation to find plurals and variations on the endings of a word. To truncate, use the asterisk symbol: *. You can enter this symbol by pressing Shift and 8 on the keyboard at the same time or by pressing the asterisk symbol on the number pad.


  • You want to find the following terms:
    tardigrade, tardigrades, tardigrada

    Use tardigrad*
  • You want to find the following terms:
    environment, environments, environmental

    Use environment*
  • You want to find the following terms:
    ecology, ecological

    Use ecolog*

To find an exact phrase (i.e., words in a row in an exact order), enclose the phrase in quotation marks.


  • "water bears"
  • "moss piglets"
  • "outer space"

Combine keywords by putting the word AND between them. This requires that both keywords be present in the database's search results. Entries that include keywords connected by AND are referred to as search statements.

Example Search Statements using AND:

  • tardigrad* AND "outer space"
  • "water bears" AND dsup
  • tardigrad* AND space AND survival 

Note: If you use the Advanced Search feature of a database, AND is the default connector between the entry boxes.

Commitment to Equal Access and Equal Opportunity

Santa Fe College is committed to an environment that embraces diversity, respects the rights of all individuals, is open and accessible, and is free of harassment and discrimination. For more information, visit or contact

SACSCOC Accreditation Statement

Santa Fe College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). For more information, visit