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Math communication courses: Search strategy


Use AND to combine concepts so you can find articles that include all of your words.


Use OR to combine synonyms so you can find articles that include any of your words.

* (asterisk)

Use the * (asterisk) at the end of a root word to find that word and all of it's possible endings.

For example, searching Canad* will retrieve any articles that contain the words Canada, Canadian or Canadians.

This is also called truncation. Be careful! Not all databases use the * (asterisk).

" " (quotation marks)

Use " " (quotation marks) to search for a phrase. This will ensure that you only find articles that contain those exact words in that exact order.

Background or basic information

Need to find background or basic information on a topic from a journal article? Add the term 'review' to your search as another concept. Review articles summarize the information known on a topic which make them great for getting started!


("travelling salesman problem" OR TSP) AND review

Create an effective search strategy

  • Create a search strategy by breaking down your research topic into individual concepts:


How can we teach financial literacy to university students?

becomes teach, financial literacy and students


  • Think of different words to describe each concept (like synonyms), these are keywords:


teach can also be thought of as learning or education

financial literacy can be phrased as financially literate


  • Use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords into a strategy that a research database can read


 (teach OR learning OR education)

AND (financial literacy OR financially literate)

AND (students)


  • Some research databases have special symbols that allow you to improve your search strategy


(teach* OR learn* OR educat*) AND (“financial literacy” OR “financially literate”) AND (student*)