Skip to Main Content

Library Homepage: Search Tips

The WCTC Library serves the students, faculty, staff, and residents of the Waukesha County Technical College district.


Search Tips for Library Resources

How to Choose the Right Database

Using the Right Search Terms

  • What words describe my topic?
    • eating disorders in children
  • Can my topic be divided into smaller topics?
    • Topic 1 – children
    • Topic 2 – eating disorders  
  • What other words describe my topic?
    • Topic 1 – children or youth or boys or girls or preteens or youngsters
    • Topic 2 – anorexia or binging or bulimia or compulsive eating or purging  
  • What do I type in the search box? Sample searches:
    • child* and anorexia
    • boys and “eating disorder”
    • girls and bulimia

Limiting and Expanding Searches

  • Use quotation marks if you want to search an exact phrase.
    • “college loans”
    • “financial aid” and loans
    • “wireless networks”
  • When searching for 2 or more topics, use the word AND to join the terms together.
    • Facebook and privacy
    • ipad and features
    • violence and television
  • Truncate words to search for all forms of the word. Most commonly used truncation symbols are:  * OR ?
    • comput* will retrieve items with the words: compute, computer, computers, computing, and computation.
  • If your search results are too large, use more specific terms for your topic.
    • Instead of sports, use basketball
  • If your search results are too small, use more general terms for your topic.
    • Instead of Porsche, use “sports cars”
  • Nouns make the best search terms. Use descriptive search terms such as:
    • “herbal medicine”
    • “nonverbal communication”
    • “identity theft” and prevention
  • Do NOT put terms such as: with, as, into, more in the search box. These words have no meaning of their own and can be found in every information source.

Boolean Operators

  • OR- Retrieves all results that have either word in them 
    • dogs OR cats (everything with the word dog and also everything with the word cat)
  • AND- Retrieves only items that have both words in them
    • dogs AND cats (items with both the word dog and cat in them)
  • NOT- Retrieves items that do not have that word in them
    • dogs NOT cats (items with the word dog and don't have the word cat)

Search Tips Handout