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Information Literacy Tutorial: Search Strategies

How to Use this Section

This part of the tutorial consists of 3 sections containing readings, videos and assessment quizzes. Read through the information on these pages, watch the videos, and answer the questions. The content in these sections is best followed from top-to-bottom beginning with the left column.

Part 4 of the tutorial consists of 3 sections (A, B & C) containing readings, videos and questions. First read through the information and watch the videos on pages 4A, 4B, and 4C. When finished take the quiz at the end of section C. The content in these sections is best followed from top-to-bottom beginning with the left column.

4A:  Searching & Exploring covers the larger issue in research: Searching is strategic. Research is not always a straight line from question to answer. The 'Research Daisy' shows that the process often comes back on itself. The non-graded reseach process activity helps to understand why one method may be better than another. 

4B: Search Strategies The "Exploring the Research process" activity helps to explain how different sources and search strategies relate to a project. 

4C: Finding Sources explores the different types of sources that you may be asked to find.

 After completing this part of the tutorial students will be able to:

  • Distinguish between primary and secondary sources.
  • Utilize different techniques during the search process 


4B: Broadening a Topic

When broadening a topic, consider these questions:

  • Can you broaden your topic to include related subjects?

Example: Instead of e-coli cases related to spinach, choose food safety

(Possible research question: What conditions must be changed in our farms to ensure less contamination in our food system?) 

  • Can you broaden your topic geographically?

Example: Instead of drought conditions in Texas, choose the southern states

(Possible research question: What are the reasons for the prolonged periods of drought in the southern U.S.?)

  • Can you broaden your topic chronologically?

Example: Instead of social changes in the 1960s, choose the second half of the 20th century 

(Possible research question: What were the events that led to societal changes in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century?) 

  • Can you identify a larger problem or issue?

Example: Instead of the Head Start program, choose early childhood education

(Possible research question: How does early childhood education in the U.S. compare with that of Germany?)


4B: Boolean Searches

4B: How to Construct a Search

When you are starting your search...

  • Choose a topic and identify the main concepts  

Tip! Concepts associated with your topic are often good search terms.

Example Topic: Government promotion of technology that doesn't use fossil fuels. 

Main Concepts you could choose to focus on:  Alternative energy, government energy incentives, development of alternative energy sources. 


  • Discover synonyms and related terms

Tips! Use an encyclopedia, thesaurus or other reference tools to find other possible search terms. 

              Try to find the standard terms used in the field.

              Have a number of possible search terms ready. 

Example: synonyms for promote: support, incentives, fund, encourage

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4B: Narrowing a Topic

Are you finding too much information? 

Searching for "Energy" comes back with 1.2 million results.  Using keywords or more specific phrases will help narrow down the results. 

Changing it to "Fossil Fuel" & "renewable energy" brings it down to 41,000 and 74,000 results respectively. 

Biofuels (22,000) is a lot of results but significantly less then searching for just "Energy" 

4B: Boolean Searches

4B: Search Strings

The keywords that you discover either through breaking down your topic question, or by utilizing synomyms to broden or narrow your topic can be arranged in a variety of ways to access resources in our databases and online. Review the Boolean operator charts above to see how you can use to further broaden or narrow your search: 

  • Federal AND incentives AND alternative Fuels
  • Wind turbines AND birds AND populations
  • Wind farms AND animals AND biodiversity

Each of these search examples would give you different results.

As you find new information about your topic, take note of the terminology used to describe your topic, and incorporate these terms into your search strategy.