Skip to main content
Purdue University Purdue Logo Purdue Libraries

English 106/108: Creating a Search Strategy

This guide has been created for students of English 106 and 108 to help them learn the Libraries' services and get help when they need it.

Make a Plan

  1. Think about your topic as a question or statement.
  2. Pinpoint the 3-4 main keywords or ideas/concepts in that sentence. .
  3. Think about alternative keywords or ideas that relate to these. Grab a thesaurus or do a Google search.
  4. Make a list of 3 or 4 alternative keywords.
  5. Mix and match these keywords to formulate your search.
  6. Think about what subject area cares enough about your topic to write about it. This will help you identify the best databases to search.

Why should I do this?

  • Most of us don't jump in the car the first morning of Spring Break and take off without looking up our route on Google Maps or packing a suitcase of weather-appropriate clothing, right?  We make a plan because we know it will be worthwhile.
  • We brainstorm alternative keywords/ideas because different authors use different vocabulary and explain their topic in different ways. Also, databases "tag" articles like you can tag photos on Facebook. Different databases will "tag" their articles with different keywords.
  • Having multiple keyword searches to try out will increase your chances of success.
  • Finally, starting your search in a general database (like ProQuest Reserach Library or Academic Search Premier) that covers multiple topics is always a good idea, but you will also find great (and often very different) sources in a subject-specific database, which is why you should consider what disciplines write about your topic.

Search Strategy Example

Use at least one keyword from each column to search. Simple examples: gender communication workplace; women communication workplace. Try a variety of combinations to optimize your results.

For more advanced search statements, use "AND"/"OR" to combine all your search terms in one search.

  • AND narrows the search to results that include a combination of the keywords.
  • OR broadens the search to include results that may only have one of the keywords or a combination.
Try Advanced search options in databases (and in Google!) for ways to make your searches smarter and save you time.