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MCOM 320: Search Strategies

This guide was created to support MCOM 320 a required business writing course. Questions? Contact Leticia Camacho, Business Librarian

Search Strategies

Whether you are searching the Web or searching a library database, plan your "search strategy" to improve your search results. Go to this link to view a video about searching strategies: 

Or you can follow these steps:


Choose appropriate search terms or keywords. Think about words and phrases that describe your topic. Make sure to include singular and plural forms, alternative words and different spellings. For instance, if you are researching the topic "Motivation of Employees", your keywords might include

motivation, job satisfaction, employee attitude, incentive, employees, human resource management, organizational leadership....


Group like keywords together (motivation OR incentives); then decide how groups of keywords are related (motivation AND job satisfaction ). Combine these keywords using Boolean "operators" to broaden or narrow your search.

AND - Finds documents containing two or more search terms

Example: motivation AND employee

 OR - Finds documents that contain any one of several search terms.

Example: motivation OR incentives
AND NOT* - Excludes a search term
Example: NOT sales

*Be careful because using NOT may discard useful as well as useless information.

Also, some databases do not require you to write AND before NOT and you can simply write NOT
Example: motivation AND employees NOT sales



Use quotation marks (" ") when your phrase is three words or longer or when you want to force the system to search your terms as a phrase. If you put your words in quotation marks, the system will search for documents where the words appear exactly in that order. Phrase searching is an excellent way to search for a particular term, such as "no child left behind" or "electronic federal tax payment system".

"corporate social responsibility"  The system searches for documents where the words appear exactly in this order.
corporate social responsibility (without quotation marks)  The system treats the phrase as if the words were joined by (corporate AND social AND responsibility). The search finds any document in which corporate and social and responsibility appear within 200+ words of one another.


Truncation & Wildcard

TRUNCATION:  Allow you to find documents containing several words with the same root.

Type educat* to find educator, educated, and education.

WILDCARD:  These characters are put in place of a single character in your search terms when more than one letter is likely to fit that space. Unlike truncation characters, you can use wildcard characters in the middle of words.

Type wom?n to find documents containing the words woman, women, and womyn.



- Limit your search by adding more keywords or checking other ways that the database lets you limit results.

- Add more terms or use more specific words to narrow your search.


It is possible that you are not using the right keywords or terms. Search playfully, and when you find a really good article, open it up. At the beginning of the article you will find the subject terms used for that article. Use those terms in your searches to find similar articles.