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Identify Main Concepts

Once you've written a research question, break that question down by identifying the main terms or concepts. 


I am studying whether the presence of Black women in the academy has a positive impact on students of color, in order to determine the importance of racial and/or ethnic representation in the college classroom. 

Generate Synonyms

List synonyms for the keywords that you underlined in your research question. 

Black Women in the Academy Students of Color College
Black female college professors BIPOC students higher ed/education
Black, female-identifying faculty African American students university 
African American women Black students graduate school
African diasporic female scholars African diaspora students undergraduate programs

Create Search Strings

Unlike with Google, where you can type in full sentences or questions, when searching in any of the library resources (Primo, journals, or databases) you need to use the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT to string together your search terms.


Other Search Tips

Truncate Root Words Phrases Use multiple search terms and parentheses in your search strings

Using an * at the end of a word such as teen* will bring back everything with that root (teens, teenager, teenagers, teenage). 

Putting quotation marks around a phrase will tell Primo to keep those words together. For example: "social media."

Social media without quotes can bring back articles on how social movements are publicized on television media.

The words social and media both appear, but without being linked together, it's not the concept of social media that you're looking for.

Teen* AND "social media" AND (peer comparison OR social comparison)

Using parentheses is a lot like the distributive property in math. The search inside the parentheses is done first. 

Try to be as specific as possible with your search. Using a search such as social media AND teen will bring back everything from social media effects on healthcare to how social media is used to market acne products to teens. 

Instead, try being specific about what you are searching for. For example, if my topic is the impact of social media on teenage body image, then I might use the search string "social media" AND teen* AND body image.

Be Aware:

Use truncation carefully. For example: Cell* will bring back everything from cellular phones to cellulitis, so you could inadvertently increase your search with irrelevant results. 


Be Aware:

Stringing multiple search terms together using AND narrows your search. Therefore, sometimes stringing too many terms together with AND can make your search so narrow you receive few, or no, results.