BASIC/ADVANCED: Steps to creating search strategies1. Identify the keywords in your research question. Keywords are words that carry content and meaning. The keywords in the research question "What is the feeding range of the blue whale in the Pacific Ocean?" are feeding range, blue whale and Pacific Ocean.
2. Brainstorm synonyms for your keywords. Think of words similar to your keywords in case a database doesn't use your original keywords. Synonyms for blue whale are baleen whale and Balaenoptera musculus.
3. Create Boolean searches using the keywords. A Boolean search is a search using the words AND, OR and NOT between the keywords. These words have a special function when used in a database.
5. Add keywords to limit the type of article you retrieve. If you want a literature review, add "AND review" to your keywords. To find a research study, add "AND study" to your keywords.
6. Enter your Boolean searches in the Advanced Search of a database. Always go to the Advanced Search in a database to enter your Boolean searches because it gives you multiple boxes with the Boolean operators between them. If you are using a search with multiple search strings, enter OR within the search boxes and AND between the search boxes, e.g., [blue whale OR Balaenoptera musculus] AND [feeding range OR feeding grounds] AND [Pacific Ocean].