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BIOL 201/202: Keywords and Searching

Resources for students in the introductory biology courses - Molecular and Cellular & Evolution and Ecology.

Keyword Development

KEYWORDS are the parts of a research question/topic/statement that carry the most meaning. They specify what it is exactly that you are interested in researching.

Craft your search using KEYWORDS that relate to your topic, rather than a full phrase or sentence.

  • Original search: articles on marketing products to millennials
  • Keywords to pull from this:
    • marketing
    • products
    • millennials

Flesh out your search by brainstorming synonyms or other topical words that relate to your research. You may find that some words in your original statement are already very similar in meaning, and could be redundant. The more synonyms you have for each keyword, the more results you will get.

  • marketing
    • target, advertising, campaigns, outreach
  • products
    • marketing implies the existence of a product or service, so this term is redundant
  • millennials
    • youth, students, younger generations, teens


Finally, connect these keywords together using BOOLEAN OPERATORS. See the following box for more information on this...

  • marketing AND millennials
  • marketing AND (millennials OR youth OR students)
  • (marketing OR advertis*) AND (millennials OR youth OR students OR "younger generation")
    • Using an asterisk* at the end of a truncated word (advertis*) will search all possible endings of that word (advertise, advertises, advertising, advertisements...)

Search Tips to Connect Your Keywords

Boolean operators tell the search engine how to connect your keywords together, and significantly affect the search results.

"Quotation marks" - Use quotation marks around a phrase you want kept together.

e.g., "Organizational behavior"

Asterisk* - Use at the end of a word stem to search all possible endings of a word.

e.g., organization* will search organizational, organizations, organization...

e.g., manage* will search management, manager, manage, manages...

AND - Use between keywords or phrases when you want every result to include them.

e.g., "Organizational behavior" AND stress AND manage*

OR - Use between keywords or phrases when you don't care which term is included in a result, so long as at least one of them appears. This is most often used when you string together words of similar meaning to capture more search results, or if you aren't sure which research area to focus on.

e.g., diversity OR inclusion OR discrimination

e.g., stress OR strain OR "emotional distress"

(Parentheses) - To prevent misreading your search, use parentheses to enclose OR strings.

e.g., "management practices" AND (stress OR strain) AND (workplace OR employer OR organization)

NOT - Use to designate specific words or phrases you do NOT want included in your search results. Useful if you need to refine your search after getting too many irrelevant results.

e.g., stress AND (employer OR workplace OR organization) NOT diet