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Using Information Responsibly: Search Tips

A multimedia tutorial that defines academic integrity, citing sources, and plagiarism.

Before you begin

Plan your search and build a search string:
  • Describe your search as a question or sentence.
  • Pinpoint major concepts included in the search question or sentence.
  • Use synonyms, alternative ideas to relate to major concepts. Use dictionary if needed.
  • Mix and match these keywords to conduct your search.

Other Search Tips

Nesting ():

Most databases and major search engines support complex Boolean searches. If you have a complex search using more than one operator, you can nest your search terms by using parentheses. Search terms and operators included in parentheses will be searched first, then terms and operators outside the parentheses. A search for:

(ADD OR attention deficit disorder) AND college students

  • Searches for documents containing either the acronym ADD or the words attention deficit disorder, in addition to the words college students
  • Then, narrow the search results only to those documents that also contain the words college students
Quotation marks “ “

will search the exact phrase, e.g.: "date fruit"


TIP: Did you know you could expand your results with an asterisk or a question mark?  This can be helpful if you need more results. 
Truncation (* in databases, ? in library catalogue)

Word stemming can be used to search for a portion of a word with a variant ending.

If you searched for therap* you would return results that included therapy, therapist, therapeutic, therapists and any other word that started with the letters therap before the truncation symbol.

Be careful not to truncate too far, or you will retrieve unrelated words!


From St. Petersburg College Library, 2011


"For reals" Boolean

Rap music & discrete mathmatics = "for reals" use

Search with Boolean connectors

Before you do any of the database searching, learn about Boolean Logic:

The examples above illustrate general topics expressed with just two keywords. Actual search strings, which express complex topic ideas, may consist of several keywords and combinations of Boolean operators.

The thesis statement "Automobile air bags are not safe for children" might result in the search string:

automobiles AND air bags AND children AND safety

From St. Petersburg College Library, 2011

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