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Business Resources: Database - Search Strategies

Use this guide to assist you in finding resources for accounting, business & marketing.

First Steps

Choosing keywords

Knowing how to find what you need in electronic databases is a powerful research skill and the keywords you use are a huge part of the success or failure of your search. Keywords, or search terms, are words or short phrases that represent the main ideas or concepts in your topic. For example, if you want to find out if caffeine has an influence on academic achievement in teenagers, then caffeine, "academic achievement" and teenagers are obvious keywords to use.


  • Single words or short phrases work best as search words.
    • Type " " (quotation marks) around your phrases. Otherwise the database will bring back results which contain your phrase words in any order, anywhere in the content.
    • If you type in a long sentence most databases will search for all the words in the sentence - and you may get zero results or results which are not relevant.


The power of synonyms

Include synonyms in your search whenever possible. Databases only bring back results which contain the exact words you typed in. If you don't include synonyms you could miss a great deal of relevant material.

  • For example, if you are researching a candy-related topic take a moment to jot down as many synonyms as you can think of - such as confectionery, snacks, "snack foods," sweets, "junk-food" etc.


Combining Keywords

Combining keywords

Many databases open to an advanced search screen showing two or more empty search boxes. To begin searching, type in keywords or search terms which represent your ideas - one idea per search box.

AND - links search terms together:

AND links concepts together

OR - allows you to work synonyms into your search:

OR= synonyms

NOT - eliminates results which contain specific words. **Note, this can have unpredictable results so you should only use NOT when you need to use keywords which have multiple meanings/uses:

  • Pancake NOT makeup
  • Grizzlies NOT basketball
    • most databases have a NOT option in the AND drop-down menu.
NOT in drop-down menu
  • Google search has a similar function but you will have to use the dash symbol rather than typing out the word NOT. Type: Grizzlies - basketball