Brainstorming and thinking about search strategies before we start our searches helps us move more efficiently through our searches. It also gives us that "next step" to use if a search ever gets stuck.
These are some recommended search strategies to consider before starting a search. Please note that not all searches will use all strategies.
Boolean operators define the relationship between search terms.
Terminology search strategies focus on the words that you use in your searches. These strategies are very precise.
Keyword searching is a form of search strategy that most people know. When you type a word in a search box and click "Search" without adding any additional information, that's a keyword search.
Phrase searching is similar to keyword searching, but instead of searching for one word, you're searching for a phrase. Phrases are surrounded by quotation marks to keep the words of the phrase together. Otherwise, the search interface will usually search for the words anywhere, not necessarily together. For example, searching for "lean six sigma," including the quotation marks, will search for the phrase together, instead of the word lean in one location, the word six in another location, and the word sigma in a third location.
Proximity searching locates words within a specific distance from each other. The number in the search phrase tells the search interface how many words away from each other the search terms can be. This allows a limited number of other words to be placed between the search terms, providing more possibilities for search retrieval within a limited scope.
Here’s the order of terminology search types based on restrictions placed upon the search.
Wildcard searching replaces the wildcard character with any other character or characters, or sometimes no characters. Typical wildcard characters include the asterisk (*), pound sign or hashtag (#), or question mark (?). Some databases accept multiple wildcard characters. Others only accept one or two. Be sure to check the database's "Help" page to find out this information.
Truncation searching is a specific type of wildcard search that replaces the wildcard character with any other character or series of characters at the end of the word. Truncation characters are almost always asterisks (*).
Note: Google uses the asterisk (*) as a wildcard for an entire word, not just letters. So, this strategy won't work quite the same way in Google. It can be a good option for locating half-remembered quotes, though!
Field terms are words or phrases located in an item's record according to a specific type, or field. To search according to field term, select the field from the drop-down menu next to the search box.
These are the main field search limiters that will appear in most search systems. Many databases will have additional field terms, such as geographic locations or other numeric codes. Explore the drop-down menus to find out what’s available.
Site extension limiters limit a search to a specified domain (or domains, if you limit to more than one). Because this search strategy is only limiting the domain result, it can only be used with web searches. There are a couple of different ways to limit to a site extension.
To apply more than one site extension limiter, add both the connecting Boolean operator OR and the limiter by hand in the search bar.
("lean six sigma" OR "lean government") AND Oregon site:.gov
The example above searches for information about (a) Lean Six Sigma or Lean government and (b) Oregon from (c) websites ending in .gov.
Be sure to use the OR Boolean operator between the site extensions because you want either type of site. (If you forget whether to use AND or OR, remember that websites can't have more than one domain. They can't be both .edu and .gov at the same time.)