Literature Review: A Self-Guided Tutorial

Super Searching

Have ever done a search and received no results or way too many? Library databases do not search like Google, so it is important to understand how to choose your search terms and how to combine them in order to be a more successful searcher. With library databases YOU have the search power. Watch the video below to learn about how to choose keywords and read how to combine your keywords to broaden and narrow your search results.

Choosing Keywords

Run Time: 3:45

Combining Keywords

Once you have determined your keywords, use the advanced search option of the library database to combine your search terms using the techniques below for broadening and narrowing your search results. 

For example, in the Choosing Keywords video, the two keywords selected are "video games" and "violence." On the advanced search screen, you would enter "video games" in one box and "violence" in the other. Most advanced search screens have "AND" automatically selected between the search boxes.

Narrow Your Search

Combine concepts with AND to find more relevant sources

picasso AND Africa

internet AND privacy

bedrock AND Massachusetts AND hydrology


Use “double quotes” to find exact phrases

"rock art"

“African diaspora”

“invertible matrix”


Use proximity searching* to find words near each other

women NEAR violence

progressive NEAR/10 tax

"global warming" NEAR/20 "sea level"

*Proximity searching works differently in different databases.  Check the help section of the database to learn how to properly use it.

Broaden Your Search

Use ORs and parentheses to combine synonyms or multiple topics

(oil OR petroleum OR crude)

(antibiotic OR antiviral)

(woman OR girl OR female)


Truncate roots of important words* to find plurals and more

perform* (searches for perform, performance, performativity, etc.)




Insert a “wild card” [*?$!] to catch words with different spellings





*Truncation and wild cards work differently in different databases. Check the help section of the database to learn what symbol to use and how to properly use it.