You may have noticed that we enclosed the term "online social networks" in quotation marks in our sample search. This is one of many quick search tips, called 'phrase searching', which can dramatically alter the results you find. This is a brief run-down of a few other tips, but we would recommend checking out either our Quick Tip Videos blog page or our Library Research Methods guide for full details.
Enclose multi-word search terms in quotation marks to find exact phrases. Example: "online social networks". If you do not enclose phrases in quotes, the database simply assumes you are looking for all three of those terms, but it does not know you wish to find them together in a certain order.
Use an asterisk at the end of a root word to find multiple endings. You will place the asterisk at the point at which you may start seeing variation. For example: activis*. This search would return results such as: activist, activists, activism, etc.
Find terms physically near each other in a record without specifying their order. Different databases use different syntax so check their help features. In EBSCO, you build a proximity search by connecting your terms with a capital 'N' and then a number representing how close together you want to find the terms.
For example: activis* N3 "online social networks"
This search specifies that I would like to find a version of the term 'activis' within three words of the phrase "online social networks". Some sample results from this search would include things like:
- online social networks used for activism
- activists take to online social networks
- online social networks as spaces for activism
***It's important to remember that this search function only specifies how close you find the words, but not the context. It will be highly useful for some searches and may not be helpful for others, so you will only want to use it in some cases.
Remember those synonyms we brainstormed earlier? Nesting is a strategy that will allow you to search for multiple synonyms in one go so you don't have to run as many searches. To nest terms, you will enclose them in parentheses and separate them using the operator 'OR'.
For example: ("online social networks" OR "social networks" OR Twitter)
The database knows that it can find any one of those terms to bring back a match.
**Note, you will almost always nest terms and add in additional keywords. You can see this in the image below: