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HSCI 100: Behonick: Search Tips

Starting point for your research for HSCI 100 - General Health Science

Keep track of Keywords

Make a  list of keywords that describe your topic.  For example,  "heart disease" and "cardiovascular disease"


  • Not every database or article uses the same words to describe the same topic, so look for suggested keywords or subject terms when performing your search.



Keyword vs. Subject

When you do a keyword search you are looking for articles that have that keyword anywhere in the text.  For example, using the keyword climate change you might find an article all about Giant Squids that mentions climate change one time on the last page.  Keywords help you do a broader search, but keywords searches also give you results that may not be relevant to your topic.

When you do a subject search you are looking for articles that are about that subject.  For example, using the subject climate change will give you articles about climate change.  It can be hard to figure out what the right subject term is, but once you find it it will always take you to results that are about your topic.

Search Tips


Use your keywords to search the library databases. Think of important words or phrases that describe your topic including synonyms and alternate terms.

For example: Searching for flu vaccine information?

  • “flu vaccine” “flu shot” h2n3​
  • “Influenza A” effectiveness 2015

Use Advanced Search Techniques

  • Phrase Searching. Some databases and search engines will allow the use of quotations to search for an exact phrase or words together in a paragraph or sentence. 
    • Example: "air pollution" Retrieves sources with the complete phrase instead of "air" in one sentence and "pollution" in another, unrelated sentence.
  • Boolean Operators: AND, OR, and NOT may be used to combine key words in electronic database searching. Using Boolean operators can make your search more focused and yield more precise results.
    • Use AND to retrieve records containing only all search terms. AND will reduce and refine the results.
    • Use OR to retrieve records containing one, both or all of the search terms. OR will expand the search and retrieve more results.