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Pioneer Academics

Define Your Topic

Before you start searching, spend some time defining your research topic.

Ask yourself, what is it that you want to find out? What search terms or keywords will find this information? State your topic as a question.


Identify Keywords, the main ideas and concepts in your research question.

Think carefully about suitable keywords, synonyms, related terms, abbreviations, and alternative spellings that will enable you to find relevant material.

Use whatever technique works best for you - e.g. brainstorming, word lists or mind maps help you think about your topic and identify all possible search concepts and terms.

Boolean Operators

Use Boolean Logic to join keywords to most effectively search for sources related to your research topic.  Following are 3 key Boolean operators you can use to expand and narrow your searches in Summon, OBIS or any of the library databases:

AND - Dogs AND Cats

This search will find all those items that refer to both dogs and cats. 

"And" limits or narrows your search..

OR - Dogs OR Cats 

This search will find all those items that refer to just dogs, just cats, and those containing both terms (dogs and cats)

"Or" broadens your search.

NOT - Dogs NOT Cats 

This search will find all items that have the term dogs and exclude any that may also have the word cats. 

"Not" limits your search.

"Phrase Searching"  - Use quotation marks around a set of words to search for an exact phrase such as "small dogs" Only those sources with the term "small dogs" will be found.

Quotation marks can help refine your search results