UWRT 150 Writing Seminar (Nassereddine): Search Techniques

Resources for Writing Seminar Second Essay topics

Search Tools

Technique What it Does Example

Phrase searching - allows you to search for documents containing a specific phrase rather than keywords in a randomized order.

Summon 2.0™ allows you to search for phrases using “ ” (quotes).

Narrows your search The query “academic honesty” will find results with that phrase.

Searches can be performed using the wildcards “?” (question mark) and “*” (asterisk). Wildcards cannot be used as the first character of a search.

The question mark (?) will match any one character.

The asterisk (*) will match zero or more characters within a word or at the end of a word.

Expands your search

Can be used to find “Smith” or “Smyth” by searching for “Sm?th”.

A search for “Ch*ter” would match “Charter”, “Character”, and “Chapter”. When used at the end of a word, such as “Tech*”, it will match all suffixes “technology”, “technological”,  and “technically”.

Boolean AND — retrieves only those records containing all your search terms. By default, all terms in a search are combined with the AND operator. Narrows your search finite AND element AND methods
Boolean OR — retrieves records containing any of your search terms; especially useful for synonyms, alternate spellings, or related concepts. To expand the results set, use the OR operator. Broadens your search

“microcircuits OR nanocircuits” will return items that contain either term.

This can be combined with quoted terms such as “teacher education” OR “educator training”.

Boolean NOT, AND NOT — attempts to exclude a term that is not useful or relevant Narrows your search "Advanced Materials" AND composite NOT wood

Proximity — retrieves terms within a specified distance of one another.

To use the proximity search, enclose your search terms in quotes and use the tilde (~) followed by a number.  The number indicates the maximum number of words you wish to allow between your search terms.

Narrows your search

"employee engagement"~5

finds material where "employee" and "engagement" appear within 5 words of each other.

NOTE: proximity searching does not take the order of search terms into account. A search on "employee engagement strategies"~5 will yield results in which the three search terms appear in various orders.

Parentheses ( ) — groups terms with Boolean for more complex searches Combines searches "mechanical engineering" AND (handbook OR dictionary)

*Summon offers the Boolean operators ORNOT and AND. The operators must be written in ALL CAPS.

Construct a successful search

  1. Do not write an entire sentence into a database's search box.  Explain your topic to someone in three words or less.  Multi-word terms that are a single idea count as one word, just put them in quotation marks (e.g. "attachment theory").  These are your search terms.
  2. Search terms that represent different aspects of your topic (e.g. "attachment theory" and infants) should be entered into different search boxes when available.  Otherwise, these terms can be combined using the word AND (e.g. "attachment theory" AND infants).
  3. Search terms that are synonyms or related terms (e.g. anxiety or worry) should be entered into the same search box and combined using the word OR (e.g. anxiety OR worry).  If multiple search boxes are not available, group related terms in parentheses and combine with the word OR.

Single search box example:

Multiple search box example:

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