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English 101: Water Theme: How to Search Databases

Library Database Search Tips

How many keywords should you use when searching a database? Find out below:

Video created by the Kimbel Library at Coastal Carolina University. 

Research Skills Worksheet

Download these worksheet to practice searching library databases, creating keywords, and evaulating sources.

Library Database Tutorials

Need more help?
These step-by-step database tutorials will show you how to use specific library databases

Craft Keywords from a Research Question

Create Keywords from your research question


  • Draw a chart like the one below or print this handout to create a building block search.
    • Place the main concepts of your research question horizontally in the first row.
    • Add synonyms and like ideas vertically under each original concept.
    • Try to come up with at least two or three synonyms for each concept.
    • Try different combinations of keywords when searching the databases.

 Research Question: How does the privatization of water affect developing countries? 

Main Concepts  ----------------------------------->

Synonyms and Like Ideas



 Developing Countries

 Corporate Ownership

 water source

 third world countries

 private business


developing nations





 Need help coming up with synonyms? Try using or looking at “related searches” in Google.

Databases can also give you ideas for other words. Do a search with your original concepts and see what you get!



Boolean Searching

Databases automatically place:


Between each of the keywords you type into the search box.

This will only find articles that include ALL your keywords.

A venn diagram that shows the word Cat in one circle and the word Dog in another circle. A small section of both circles overlap and is colored in blue. Under the image is a title that says Cat AND Dog. The And is the same blue as the area where the two circles overlap.

The MORE keywords you use the FEWER articles you will receive.

Choose your keywords carefully and don't add too many to a search.

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