Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Spanish Resources

Why Use Keyword Searches?

Library Databases vs Search Engines (ex: Google)

Snowden Library subscribes to databases specific to the academic programs offered at Lycoming College. Databases contain various kinds of information, including:

  • scholarly peer-reviewed articles
  • newspaper articles
  • thesis and dissertations
  • book reviews
  • trade publications

Search engines, like Google, look for material that is freely available online. Information that can be retrieved by search engines includes:

  • newspaper articles
  • videos
  • commercial and company sites
  • academic and scholarly articles (especially through Google Scholar)
  • social media 
  • personal blogs

Keywords vs Natural Language

Different methods are used by library databases and search engines to retrieve information. Since all the information found in a library database is organized by subject terms and keywords, library databases uses the keywords and specific phrases you put into the search bar to find information. 

Search engines allow for natural (or everyday) language and questions, but you can also apply the same search strategies you would use in a database to your Google searches. Search engines also retrieve sponsored or promotional content and use algorithms to sort through information based on your location and your recent search activity. Google is a good place to start your research and get an overview of your topic, but don't stop your research process there.

Search Strategies

Keywords and synonyms

Keywords are the main ideas of your research questions or topic. Since there are many ways to describe one concept, it is a best practice to have a variety of keywords and synonyms to search with to get better results. You can combine your keywords with the following strategies to make sure you retrieve the most relevant sources for your research.

"Phrase searching"

  • The search results will contain the exact phrase entered with quotation marks (ex: "higher education").

Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT)

  • AND: results must include both words (ex: soccer AND football).
  • OR: results can contain either of the words. Use to link synonyms (ex: soccer OR football).
  • NOT: results include one word and not the other (ex: soccer NOT football).

You can use multiple operators in one query, combine them, and "nest" the terms with parenthesis. Ex: ethics AND (cloning OR reproductive techniques)

Truncation and wildcards

  • Truncation: adding a truncation symbol (Asterisk or Shift + 8) after the root of a word will look for all variations after the * (ex: child* = child, childs, children, childrens, childhood). Truncation symbols may vary by database; common symbols include: *, !, ?, or #
  • Wildcard: substitutes a symbol for one letter of a word: wildcards are useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning (ex: colo?r = color or colour). 

Limit your search

Depending on the database, this could be searching by Title, Author or Publication Date. Also look for Descriptors or Subject Terms assigned to relevant articles, then search by those terms.

Example searches

Combining multiple strategies takes practice, here are a few examples of how it can be done:

  • (ethic* OR moral*) AND (bioengineering OR cloning OR "reproductive techniques")
  • free (title) AND blair niles (author) AND 1930 (year)

Ask a Librarian

Don't hesitate to Contact a Librarian if you are having difficulty finding relevant articles.