To perform searches, you will need keywords.
Let's practice brainstorming keywords by looking at a sample topic... How do survivors of stressful events regulate intrusive thoughts?
First we'll eliminate irrelevant words. The databases will search for every word that you type into the searchbox, so try to keep your search simple - just a few words.
How do survivors of stressful events regulate intrusive thoughts?
When you eliminate the irrelevant words from your research question, you should be able to spot major concepts. The 2 major concepts in our example are stressful events and intrusive thoughts.
Now, let's take each of those and come up with as many synonyms (or related ideas) as we can.
stressful events – stress, trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, disasters, death, job loss
intrusive thoughts – automatic thoughts, self-talk
Next, combine any one of the keywords from each group using AND.
1. stress AND "intrusive thoughts"
2. stress AND "automatic thoughts"
3. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" AND "intrusive thoughts"
Different combinations of search terms will give you very different results, so you may want to try several different search strategies to see which gives you the best results.
Sometimes, advanced search techniques can save you time and get you better results than a simple search with two keywords and AND.
To create an advanced search strategy...
Finally, you can combine these techniques to create an advanced strategy. You may have to try several searches to see what works best for your topic.
Example 1: stress* AND "intrusive thoughts" AND child*
Example 2: "job loss" AND self-talk
Example 3: stress* AND ("intrusive thoughts" OR "automatic thoughts")
Now, try to form a few search strategies for your own topic!