6.2 Creating Effective Search Statements

You may already have figured out that one of your keywords on its own is not enough to get you the results you need.  For example, if I only search with the phrase “underserved communities” I’ll likely get a large number of results but those results will be about many different topics most of which will be unrelated to voting. This is because the database is showing me every article and resource that includes the phrase “underserved communities”.  The fix?  I need to make sure that my search includes all the relevant concepts.  Joining together keywords is called a search statement.

The Power of AND

We use AND to join keywords because that’s part of the database language. Here are examples of search statements.

  • “voter turnout” AND “African Americans”
  • “voter suppression” AND “African Americans”
  • “voter registration” AND “underserved communities”

It’s good to mix and match and try different combinations of keywords. However, not all of your keywords may mix well together.  Think about what information it is that you want to find. Read the search statement. Does it make sense for what you are looking for?

Use the Rhetorical Research Tracking Sheet google document to keep track of your background research, keywords, and .  To utilize the tracking sheet, open the document and select Make a Copy from the File menu in the upper left corner of the page. You will then be able to edit the document and save it as a Google Doc or download as a Word document.


Effective Database Searching

Up to now, we’ve been focused on developing a research strategy primarily for an academic purpose, but it is important to remember that all of these strategies can be applied to other research needs as well as other resources of information (i.e. Google searching).  Since we are focused on library databases, it may be helpful to note the differences between databases and Google.

Comparing Google and Library Databases
Google Library Databases
Mostly free access to information, but many sites do require a subscription, fees, or paywalls. Free access for SCC students. Access is paid through tuition and other fees.
Most sites go unchecked/unverified (i.e. personal webpages, blogs, forums, social media, private organization/company sites) It is up to you to evaluate this information. The majority of information comes from reputable sources and publishers, however, not all information is without bias or represents all viewpoints. It is still up to you to evaluate this information.
Mostly information is unorganized and relies upon Google rankings and algorithms to give results. Information is organized by subject and indexed using subject terms and other .
Provides some, but not very precise, search features and search options to refine results. Provides many search features and filters to refine results.  These options do vary by database.

The SCC Library provides access to general databases that include information on many different subjects and topics. The library also has access to subject specific databases which include information on a specific topical area such as nursing, psychology, history, or criminal justice. You can search each of these databases individually or you can use the OneSearch. OneSearch is a discovery tool which means that it pulls information from many of the library’s different resources and puts it into one list of results. Using the library’s OneSearch will help you find books, ebooks, articles from magazines, journals, and scholarly articles, streaming media, images, and more. Watch the video, OneSearch in Under 3 Minutes to learn search tips.