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KAMSC Biomedical Sciences Class (Ms. Joyce 2023-24)

Guide to WMU resources for Ms. Joyce's KAMSC Biomedical Sciences

Finding and using keywords


Keywords (also called search terms) are the words you type into a search bar to find sources about your topic. You need to spend some time thinking about your keywords to make sure you aren't missing anything in your searches. You should list the main ideas in your topic, synonyms for those terms, related terms, and broader or narrower ideas.

  • Keyword tool: This tool from the University of Texas at Austin guides you through the process of creating a keyword search.
  • Too many results? Narrow your search by including keywords that focus on a specific aspect of your topic
  • Not enough results? Broaden your search by including related terms, less specific terms, or removing some of your keywords. Remember that there is no perfect source that fits your project exactly.

Boolean Operators and Symbols

Boolean Operators are words or symbols used to combine keywords in a search.

The most commonly used operators are: AND, OR, and NOT. When used in all caps, search engines (Library Search, databases, and Google) recognize them as a specific function. These are best described by using Venn diagrams.

Click the tabs at the top of this box to learn more about each operator.

Use AND when you want to limit your search to a specific combination of words.

If you are researching social media but receive too many results about social media users or the social media site itself when you only want information on social media about the experience of influencers, you could use AND to make sure you only receive results with both terms in the item record.

OR will expand your search to results that have one, the other, or both search terms in the item record.

If you are researching something with a name that varies depending on the context, you can use OR to make sure the system is searching all possible versions of that term. For example, some information on LGBTQ+ topics uses the term "LGBTQ" while "homosexual" is more commonly used in medical texts. If you want both, use OR to combine your terms.

Use NOT to narrow your search and eliminate instances of another term.

If you are searching with a term that is part of a larger term not relevant to your research or that term is also used in a different field, you may need to use NOT to remove results. For example, if you are searching for the portrayal of witches in the media and use the term "witch," you may receive results about The Witcher, a book, video game, and Netflix series. To remove these results, use NOT.

To use NOT in Google searches, use - (minus sign).

Though some Advanced Search features of search engines allow you to have multiple search boxes with drop-down menus for Boolean Operators, you can use multiple operators in single line searches.

( ) Just like in math, parentheses are their own groupings. This part of the search is done before it is combined with any other part of the search.

" " Quotation marks make sure that two or more words are in that exact order or are found with that exact spelling.

* An asterisk functions as truncation. It can be used to find words with multiple endings. For example, teach* will search for teach, teacher, teachers, teaches, and teaching.

? A question mark functions as a wildcard. It can be used to find words where only one letter is changed. For example, wom?n will search for women, woman, womyn, and womxn.

example advanced search using separate search boxes

example advanced search using one search box

Both of the searches above will function the same even though they are written differently.


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Micaela Carignano
1050 Waldo Library