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Critical Writing Program Russia After Communism Spring 2023: Keywords


As you read and search, keep track of the vocabulary you encounter.

Terms and definitions vary by field. You will likely find your repertoire of key words expanding as you get deeper into your search. Keep track of synonyms, technical vocabulary, discipline specific terms--they often come in handy, particularly if, as sometimes happens in this course, you go on to do more advanced research on the topic in future classes. 


This document suggests a good method of crafting effective keyword searches:

Boolean search

Boolean Searching uses a combination of terms to search an online database. A Boolean search can either expand or narrow the results of your search. It is a kind of set theory. 

This kind of searching is going on behind the scenes to some extent in almost any website or database you search whether you know you are doing it or not. 

When you type a series of words such as  

pets dogs hounds terriers poodles

It is most likely interpreted at the site as pets  AND hounds AND terriers AND poodles

A database would interpret this as needing to include ALL of these terms. It might be a very narrow search. 

You might really mean: 

pets AND (hounds OR terriers OR poodles) 

Pets becomes set one and (hounds OR terriers OR poodles) is set two.

In this case the database will

  • First look for every article that has the word pets in it, and
  • Second, create a second set that inlcudes all articles that mention either hounds or terriers or poodles.
  • Third, it will find where these two sets overlap. You should only receive articles that mention hounds, terriers, or poodles as pets. 

"AND" always narrows a search, "OR" always broadens it. 

You can also use "NOT" to narrow a search further. 

AND OR and NOT are also referred to as "operators." 

Adding NOT: 

pets AND (Hounds OR terriers OR poodles) NOT cats

"NOT cats" becomes set three. 

Now the overlap will only include articles that DO NOT include the term cats. 

This is a visulation--the area of the circles that overlap will be your results.  

visualization of a boolean search

Additional Tips: 


You can truncate your terms using an asterick * (Some databases may use a ? or another symbol, but * is the most common) 

dog* (will also retrieve dogs, doggy, doggerel) 

exist* (existent, existing, existence) 

Think about your truncations before you truncate: 

Rom* could be romance, rome, roman, romany, romantic, romperroom, and so on ... too many words too different one from the other to be useful.

It might be better to type (rome OR roman) or (romance OR romantic) or ("romance literature" OR "romance language") 

Quotations and phrases

when searching an exact phrase, such as the title to an article or book, or two words that you always want together place them within quotation marks:

  •  "house of representatives"
  • "Their Eyes Were Watching God" 


Facets are options at most databases to narrow your search further. You may see:

  • Scholarly and Peer Review
  • Journals
  • Books
  • Newspaper/ Magazines
  • Online
  • Date range
  • additional subjects or discipilnes
  • language

Franklin Catalog and Articles + both have date ranges along the left hand column

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