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BIO 5 Human Physiology

Basic Search Tips

SearchUnlike Google, library databases can't understand an entire sentence. So you'll need to break your topic down into the most important ideas - the keywords.

Example Topic:  How do genetic, environmental and socioeconomic factors combine to increase the risk of heart disease for African Americans? 

Keywords: genetic, environmental, socioeconomic, increase, risk, heart disease, African American

The research question "How do genetic, environmental and socioeconomic factors combine to increase the risk of heart disease for African Americans?" with the words "genetic," "environmental," "socioeconomic," "increase," "risk," "heart disease," and "African Americans" highlighted

Most words have synonyms that mean the same, or very similar, things. For each keyword in your topic, try to come up with at least one synonym. Not all keywords will have synonyms, but many do!


Keyword: [insert a keyword from your example topic]     Synonym: [provide one appropriate synonym]


Keep an Eye Out

Sometimes scholars use terms that you might not be familiar with, or which might mean something very specific within the discipline. While searching, look for unfamiliar terms or words that show up a lot. Try searching for those and see if you find more relevant sources.

Example of tools to refine searchLibrary databases have built in search tools. Try some of these:

  • Date: Limit your search to sources published between specific years.
  • Scholarly Journals: Limit your search to scholarly journal articles.
  • Format: Limit your search to articles, books, images, etc.
  • Subject: Think of subjects as official hashtags. Use them to find sources about that subject.

Look on the left of your search results, or for an "advanced search" page to find these tools - and more!

Advanced Search Tips

Boolean search with the keywords "African American" AND "heart disease"

Use the operator AND to find only sources that mention both keywords.

African American AND
heart disease

This search will bring back fewer results than searching either keyword on its own.


Boolean search with the keywords "African American" OR "Black"

Use the OR operator to expand your search with additional keywords.

African American OR Black

This will find sources that include either word, so you'll see more results than by searching for just one keyword.


Advanced search in OneSearch with the keywords "heart disease" in quotes, "African American" in quotes, and risk factors

Use the “QUOTES” strategy to search for several words in a phrase.

"heart disease"

This will bring back results that only use that exact phrase.