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BIO 325: Microbiology

Steps for a Successful Search

Steps for a Successful Search


1. Choose a topic. Brainstorm 2-3 concepts within that topic or that relate. 

For example, your topic is COVID-19. Let's say that you also want to focus on whether masks are effective preventive measure.

Your concepts are COVID-19, masks


2. Think of any and all words that could describe each of those key concepts (synonyms, related words, other forms of the word, etc.). This is a hard part of process and you usually end up gathering more word variants as you search.

For example:

COVID-19: Coronavirus Disease 2019, Novel Coronavirus COVID-19, virus SARS-CoV-2

Masks: Face coverings, cloth face coverings, PPE, facemasks



3. Connect those words with AND / OR / NOT. Use parenthesis to group terms just like you would in math, so the database will search for the terms in parentheses first, and THEN search for everything else

(Coronavirus Disease 2019) AND (face coverings)

(Novel Coronavirus COVID-19) AND (facemasks)


Boolean Phrase Searching

Using the words AND, OR, NOT while you search will retrieve preferred results. Each of those three words serve a different purpose.


  • AND - Narrows your search (Use between your concepts)


  • OR - Broadens your search (Use between synonyms) 


  • NOT - Tells the search engine to only return results without this word


For example, lets say you need to find an article about dragonfly migration.  You would definitely include dragonfly AND migration in your search. But what other word could bring you articles on dragonflies? Odonata! And what other word means migration? Movement!


Therefore, your search phrase could be:

(Dragonfly OR Odonata) AND (Migration OR Movement)

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