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EDU 102 - Group Research Project

2. Search Tips

Library databases work by having you search for keywords, instead of full sentences. Check out the tips below on how to come up with keywords on your topic.


As you think about what concepts you want to research, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic.  For instance, if you are writing about the effects of technology in the classroom.  Think of related keywords:

Technology Effects Classroom / Students

"online classes" / Internet
computers / laptops / tablets
"social media"

benefits / drawbacks
improve / hurt
advantages / disadvantages

"student engagement"
cheating / plagiarism

Keywords work best by trial-and-error. Never do only one search. Some keywords will work better than others, and some keywords may lead you to different articles than you found in your first search.  Search the databases with the keywords you selected to find relevant articles. And remember to ask a librarian if you need assistance coming up with keywords or looking for sources.

Quotation Marks

If your keyword is more than one word, put quotation marks around your keyword in the library database. This will search your keyword as a whole instead of as individual words.

  • "K-12 school"
  • "Common Core"
  • "teacher assistant"


AND is the most common of the Boolean Operators. AND will narrow down your search so you get less results, because it is telling the database that your search results must include every one of your search terms.

When you use AND to combine your keywords, keep in mind that while you will get results that have all of your keywords together, they might not necessarily be next to one another.

  • "flipped classroom" AND effectiveness
  • "charter school" AND risks
  • teachers AND "merit raises"


The Boolean Operator OR broadens your search. Remember that in database searching, OR means MORE results. OR tells the database that you want results that mention one or both of your search terms.

OR is a helpful operator to use if you have a search term that has multiple meanings, like "online learning" or "e-learning." You will notice when you do your searching, that some authors might use the term "online learning" and others will use "e-learning" to mean the same thing. OR helps you make sure that you find the most possible articles about your topic.

  • "online learning" OR "e-learning"
  • preschool OR pre-K
  • "student achievement" OR "student success"


The Boolean Operator NOT helps narrow your search by excluding certain terms from your search. When using NOT, you are telling the database that you want information that is related to the first term, but not the second.

NOT is useful if one of your keywords has multiple meanings that keep giving you irrelevant results. NOT can also help if you want to exclude certain patient types from your search.

  • "learning loss" NOT COVID
  • "flipped classroom" NOT college
  • "teacher salary" NOT "private school"