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CHM - Chemistry (WO)

Identify Keywords

To perform searches, you will need keywords.




Let's practice brainstorming keywords by looking at a sample topic...

How does caffeine chemically affect the human brain?

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 does caffeine chemically affect the human brain?

When you eliminate the irrelevant words from your research question, you should be able to spot major concepts.  The two major concepts in our example are caffeine and brain.

Now, let's take each of those and come up with as many synonyms (or related ideas) as we can.

caffeine – caffeinated, coffee

brain – mental, sleep, neurotransmitters, receptors

Create a Search Strategy

Next, combine any one of the keywords from each group using AND. 


1.       caffeine AND brain

2.      coffee AND sleep

3.      caffeine AND neurotransmitters

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.

Advanced Searching

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...

  • Use AND to connect concepts. AND finds both terms, so a search for caffeine AND brain returns articles that talk about both.
  • Use OR to look for synonyms or related ideas.  OR looks for either term, so a search for caffeine OR coffee will return results that talk about either of these related ideas.
  • Use NOT to specify words that should not be included in the article.
  • Use quotation marks [“ “] to search for phrases.
  • Use an asterisk [*] for truncation. For example, use caffein* to search for caffeine, caffeinated - any word that begins with c-a-f-f-e-i-n.

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:  caffeine AND brain AND child*

Example 2:  caffeine AND (neurotransmitters OR receptors)

Example 3:  caffeine AND "mental performance" 

Now, try to form a few search strategies for your own topic!