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Geological Sciences


The difference between an ok search and a great search could be the keywords. Keywords are the main ideas of the research question. They can be words or phrases. Keywords can be words directly in the research question, synonyms of these words, or ideas that the research question encompasses.

For the question "How will climate change affect the beaches and coastal areas of the Florida Everglades"?- the key words directly from the question are "climate change," "beach," and "Everglades."

Synonyms and broad ideas: 1) "Climate change" could also be "global warming," or effects of climate change such as "sea level rise; 2) beach could also be "coastline," "seashore," "sand," "sand dunes."

Quotations are used to search for phrases. Without quotations the search results for climate change, will have papers with climate, change, and "climate change" 

Truncation and Wildcards

Sometimes a keyword has different spellings or can be plural. For example beach, and beaches. It is possible to search both by using truncation. For example beach*, searches for any word starting with beach. Another examples would be pollut* which can be used to find terms related to pollution, pollutant, pollute, etc.

Wildcards enable searches for different spelling variations such as "color," and "colour." It is possible to use the wildcard "?" to search "colo?r"

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators are words that let the user group keywords together or exclude words. The three operators are AND, OR, NOT.

  • Use AND to group different themes together. For example "climate change" AND "beach*" and "Everglades"
  • Use OR to group synonyms together. For example "climate change," "global warming" and "sea level rise" 
  • Use NOT to exclude a word not wanted in result. Be careful using not, so that it doesn't exclude a desired word.

For more information on keywords, truncation and wildcards, and Boolean operators, MIT Libraries, provides a great summary.

Example of Database Search

A list of all the databases available to UF affiliates is found under the Smathers Libraries list of databases. Science specific databases are found under Marston list of databases by discipline. The search interface and strategies are similar across databases, so learning how to search is very important. Below is an example of how to search in "Web of Science" a multidisciplinary database. For more information on creating a research question and keywords see sections under the "Research Process."

QUESTION: How will climate change affect the beaches and coastal areas of the Florida Everglades

KEYWORDS: Everglades, "climate change," beach

SEARCH: (Beach*) AND ("climate change" OR "sea level rise" OR "global warming") AND Everglades

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