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OnRamps Rhetoric Research Guide

Keywords and Database Search Tips


Searching databases is different than searching in Google. For good results in a database, you have to distil what you are looking for into a few key terms or phrases, rather than whole sentences. You also have to think of various ways to say those key terms, because different writers will refer to the same concept in different ways. To turn your topic into keywords or search terms, use this tool, or:  

  1. Write down your topic (ex. female college students with eating disorders)
  2. Underline the main concepts (ex. Female college students with eating disorders
  3. For each main concept, brainstorm a few synonyms and related terms that get at that concept:
Key Concepts Female college students Eating disorders
Related Terms University women
Young adults

Search Tips

Boolean Operators

Use Boolean operators (named for mathematician George Boole) to narrow, broaden, or refine your search.

Chart showing use of Boolean Operators, AND to narrow a search, OR to broaden a search, NOT to refine a search

Try searching with different groupings and keyword combinations.

  • (college females OR young adults)  AND (eating disorders OR bulimia OR anorexia)
  • (children OR adolescents) AND violence AND (television NOT video games)

Truncation and Wildcards

Use an * at the end of a word to search for all forms of that word. 

  • educat* will return results for education, educator, educated, educating;etc.
  • environment* will also return results for environmentalism and environmentalist

An * can also be used to replace a character in a word.

  • wom*n will search for women and woman

Academic Search Complete

Now it’s your turn! Try searching for variations of keywords using Academic Search Complete

Ebsco Host

Where's the Article?

If you don’t see a .pdf of the article you want, click Find it to find it in another database or in print in the Libraries.

If it is only in print in the Libraries or we don’t own the article, click Get scan to have the article emailed to you. This option will take a few days.

What is a database?

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