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Information Resources for AOE Students: Search Tips & Tricks

The purpose of this guide is to introduce CPS students to navigation of Lightner Library resources and to provide research tutorials.

Search Terms

Identifying Search Terms

Before you begin your search in the library databases, you need to identify some good search terms to try for your topic. Take a look at the steps below to get an idea of the process:

  1. Write your topic out as a sentence or question
  2. Underline the key words or concepts
  3. Think of other words to describe your topic, such as synonyms or related words. You may need to do some background research on the web or in an encyclopedia to help you brainstorm related words or terms.
  4. Start Simple! Add more words as you go.
  5. Do more than one search. Try different words.
  6. Figure out which terms get you the best results

Here's an example topic question with the key words bolded: 

What are some of the best methods to help prevent child abuse?

Now we're going to think about synonyms or related terms for our concepts:

  • Prevent
    • intervene, protect, risk factors, warning signs
  • Child abuse
    • neglect, violence, maltreatment

Now that we have some search terms, check out the Boolean Logic box below to see how best to put them into the database search boxes.

Search Terms & Tricks Tutorial Video

Watch the video below for a tutorial on how to formulate the best search terms for your database searches.

Using Boolean Operators (AND, OR)

You can use AND, OR to make your search terms more effective and reduce the number of different searches you have to try to get all the relevant articles available.

Here is the general rule:

  • Use OR between synonyms and terms that are related to each other
  • Use AND between the different concepts in your topic that MUST be included in your results for them to be relevant to your topic
The image below shows an example search to visualize how AND & OR work together to create an efficient search.

You will notice that some of the words below use an asterisk or punctuation marks. See the "Punctuation Tricks" box to the right to find out how to use these.


And here is what the search would look like in a database:

AOE Librarian

April Higgins's picture
April Higgins
(315) 279-5411

Punctuation Tricks

You can use an asterisk at the beginning, middle, or end of a word to create a wildcard substitute for any other letter, letters, or perhaps, no letters at all.

For example: We can use Prevent* to get results that use the words prevention, prevents, or prevent.


" "

You can use quotation marks around two or more words to make sure your results show those words together in that order.

For example: We can use "Child Abuse" to make sure we get articles that specifically talk about child abuse (instead of getting results that mention "child" in one place and "abuse" in another)

Understanding Boolean Operators

Still don't understand how AND, OR, & NOT can help you with your search?

Watch the video below for a thorough explanation.

(Video credit goes to University of La Verne's Wilson Library)