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 has climate change affected beaches in Florida"?- the key words directly from the question are "climate change," "beach," and "Florida."
Synonyms and broad ideas: 1) "Climate change" could also be "global warming."; 2) beach could also be "coastline," "seashore," "sand," "sand dunes." 3) "Florida" could also mean "Gulf Coast" or "Southeast United States."
Sometimes a keyword has different spellings or can be plural. For example "sand" and "sandy" and "sands." It is possible to search all these terms individually using Boolean Operators (see below). Truncation uses a symbol to search for all three at once: "sand*."
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 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 "Florida"
Use OR to group synonyms together. For example "beach*" OR "coastline" OR "seashore" OR "sand*" OR "sand dune*."
Use NOT to exclude a word not wanted in result.
For more information on keywords, truncation and wildcards, and Boolean operators, MIT Libraries, provides a great summary.
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 has erosion from climate change affected beach sand?
KEYWORDS: Beach, Beaches, sand, "climate change," erosion
SEARCH: (Beach* OR sand*) AND "climate change" AND "erosion"