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MONT 154N-S01: The Environment and Me (Hess)

Spring 2024

Search Terms

Identify Keywords

Keywords are terms we use when searching for information. Searching in a library database is a little different from how you might be used to searching in a search engine like Google. In a search engine, you can type in entire phrases or questions and the algorithm will be able to parse through that to return the results you want. In a database or library search, you need to be more precise. By choosing your keywords strategically, you can maximize your search to make sure you're getting the information you want.

  1. To identify keywords, start with your research topic or question. What are the important words or phrases in your question that sum up your topic? Write those words down. 
  2. Next, look at your list and try to come up with 2-3 synonyms or other ways of referring to each concept. How do authors and researchers in the field refer to your topic? 
  3. Think about how to narrow down your search by adding clarifying words or making your terms more specific. Are you looking for information about a specific location or population? Are there more specific ways to refer to your topic?

Keyword Chart

Advanced Searching

Combine Your Search Terms

You can use the words AND, OR, and NOT to combine your search terms for precise searching. These are called Boolean operators and each one has a different purpose. Using these can help narrow or broaden your search, and can help you combine topics to find more specific results. These strategies can be used in any library catalog or database.

Use AND to combine your search terms. Each search result with include all of the terms. This can help narrow your results.

  • Searching for fast fashion AND environment will find results that include both terms. Use this to combine different concepts that make up your topic to find more focused results.

Use OR to find results that contain at least one of your search terms. This can help you broaden your results, and can be good to use if the subject you're searching for is referred to in different ways.

  • Searching for environment OR climate will show results that include either term or both terms. Use this to search for synonyms, or words that mean similar things. Some journals may use one term over the other, so using OR makes sure you're capturing the different ways publishers may refer to the same concept.

Use NOT to exclude terms from your results. This can help you narrow your topic by removing a related term that you are not interested in finding sources about.

  • Searching for pollution NOT oil will show results that only include pollution and will not show any results that include oil. Use this strategy if you are finding irrelevant results with a common keyword or subject, or if you're looking for a more specific piece of a larger topic.

The Venn diagrams below show how Boolean operators work. The purple highlighted areas represent what the search results will include.

Three Venn diagrams demonstrating Boolean operators with the words coffee and tea.