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Chem 240T -- Chemical Biology

Dr. Kalyani Maitra's class, Fall 2022

Think About Your Search

What Are You Searching For?

Build Your Search

Main concept

Modify that concept: What aspects?

More aspects, synonyms, broader or more specific terms?

Does the database/search engine let you Refine Your Results?
        publication dates, publication types (e.g. scholarly journals), age groups, human/animal, language...

Journal articles (primary, review articles, systematic reviews, etc.)

Books, book chapters

Proceedings (often abstracts only)

Theses and Dissertations

Research reports (from government, research or professional organizations)

Abstracts of conference presentations



Handout  (from Research methods for comprehensive science literature reviews.)

To get more

Use * for alternate word endings
        e.g.,   sustainab* retrieves sustainable, sustainability etc.

Use the different search lines to enter key words (not sentences) describing the different components of your search topic

Redo your search using new keywords you find in article titles, abstracts, and subject terms given to the articles by the database

Use or between synonyms or alternate concepts
        e.g.,    greenhouse gases* or ghg* or carbon dioxide

Use fewer search terms. 
Each time you put in another search term (unless they are synonyms combined with or)  you will get fewer results.
Start with a small number of keywords and then add more terms or try different terms based on your results.

To get less

Use quotation marks around words you want searched as a phrase
e.g.,  "greenhouse gases"

Databases usually offer ways to Limit or Refine your search results, such as:
   To Scholarly/Peer-reviewed journals
   By publication date range
   To journal articles only (or books, dissertations, etc)

Some databases also have specific limits or search options such as:
   Age Groups

Add more search terms:
Each time you put in another search term, you will retrieve fewer results.
    Start with a small number of keywords and then add more terms or try different terms based on your results.
    Use the different search lines to enter more  key words (not sentences) describing different components of your topic
    In articles that look good, look for other terms in the title, abstract, and subjects.

What is it:  Is it a primary research article?  A review article, leading you to primary research articles? A dissertation....?

Is it relevant to your specific topic, does it give you useful background information, or use a methodology you could use or adapt to your project?

Does publication date matter? If so, is it in an appropriate date range?

Watch for other terms that might bring back other results


Use the References list in the literature you find to look backwards in time.

Several literature databases, such as Web of Science, SciFinder-n, Google Scholar, and often publisher websites, give you Cited and Cited By links that may help you look forward and backwards in time.