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Search Strategies: Creating a Search

1. Create a Search Statement

The most difficult part of conducting a good search is usually not figuring out which buttons to push, but rather in figuring out which terms to use and how to combine them to find literature that is "on topic". This requires a strategy that will optimize the number of relevant titles that you can find.  One part of this strategy is the search statement.

A search statement is a query that identifies the information you are searching for in a database in a way that can be utilized by the search engine for retrieval of articles, books, etc. In most cases, a topic can be described in many different ways.  As there are over 500,000 words in the English language, there are undoubtedly numerous words that could be used to describe the topic.

To begin:

  • Break your search statement/question into concepts and keywords
  • Note other possible natural vocabulary keywords and applicable concept terms while doing background research.
  • Create concepts for 1-3 words.

Keywords & Controlled Language

Many databases have some form of "controlled vocabulary", also known as "standardized vocabulary".  One term is selected as the preferred word for describing and searching for words and concepts in citations.  These words and concepts are referred to as Subject terms or descriptors.  Words selected for controlled vocabularies are decided by specialists in information science and/or academic disciplines related to the terms and concepts.  Keywords are descriptive words that may be found in the title, subject headings (descriptors), contents notes, abstract, or text of a record in an online catalogue or database.  A keyword search is also known as free-text searching.

Using a thesaurus to find related terminology to your search terms can increase the number of information sources you find.  You can find a thesaurus in your wordprocessing software (such as Microsoft Word), online, or in print at the library.  


Search Term #1


Search Term #2


Search Term #3


or  eco-friendly
or  corporate
or  methods
or  green
or  industry
or  indicators
or  environmental
or  management
or  systems
or  responsible
or  manufacturing
or strategies

Other Phrases: triple bottom line, business ethics, social responsibility...

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