In academic writing, a \u201csearch strategy\u201d refers to the methods used to find sources. You\u2019ll often have to document your search strategy in the methodology section of a thesis or dissertation.\n\nBut how do you develop a good search strategy? It depends on what you\u2019re researching, but these five tips are a great starting point.\n1. Selecting Databases\nYour college library should offer access to various academic databases. But not all of these will be relevant to your work (e.g., if you\u2019re studying medicine, you probably won\u2019t need the American Meteorological Society\u2019s Meteorological & Geoastrophysical Abstracts database).\n\n[caption id="attachment_2861" align="aligncenter" width="306"] Unless you take "under the weather" literally.[\/caption]\n\nConsequently, you should either select the most relevant databases via your library\u2019s search engine or access individual databases online. You should also make sure to list the databases used when you write up your search strategy.\n2. Search Terms\nNext, you\u2019ll need to select relevant search terms. Some of these should be obvious based on your research topic (e.g., if you\u2019re writing about mummification in ancient Egypt, you\u2019ll definitely want to search for \u201cmummification\u201d and \u201cEgypt\u201d).\n\n[caption id="attachment_2862" align="aligncenter" width="344"] Well preserved.(Photo: dada\/wikimedia)[\/caption]\n\nFor others, though, you may need to brainstorm related terms. One option is looking at a few papers related to your topic and seeing which keywords they use in their abstracts.\n3. Wildcards and Truncation\nYou can increase the number of results you get from a search using \u201cwildcards\u201d and \u201ctruncation\u201d:\n\n \tWildcards are symbols used to find alternative spellings of the same term. If a wildcard is represented by a \u201c!\u201d symbol, for instance, you could search for \u201cRam!ses\u201d to find variant spellings of the name (e.g., Ramses, Rameses, Ramesses).\n \tTruncations allow you to search for various endings to the same term. So if a truncation is represented by a \u201c*,\u201d you could search for \u201cEgypt*\u201d to bring up results that include \u201cEgyptology\u201d and \u201cEgyptian.\u201d\n\nThe symbols for these may depend on the database, so remember to check the \u201chelp\u201d section when using a new database to find out how to use wildcards and truncation.\n4. Using Boolean Operators\nAnother way of customizing search results is to use Boolean operators. The three main terms you\u2019ll need here are \u201cAND,\u201d \u201cOR,\u201d and \u201cNOT.\u201d\n\nThe \u201cAND\u201d operator allows you to search for papers that contain more than one search term (e.g., \u201cmummification AND Ancient Egypt\u201d). The \u201cOR\u201d operator, meanwhile, will return results that feature either of the search terms mentioned (e.g., \u201cmummification or burial rites\u201d).\n\n[caption id="attachment_2863" align="aligncenter" width="378"] Or "Mummies AND Cats."(Photo: Mario S\u00e1nchez\/wikimedia)[\/caption]\n\n\u201cNOT\u201d lets you exclude certain results from a search. For instance, if you only wanted to find results about ancient Egyptian mummies, you could search for \u201cmummification NOT bog bodies\u201d to exclude European mummies found in peat bogs.\n\u00a05. Limiting Searches\nYou can also control searches using limiting conditions. These are the options that allow you to filter certain results for relevance.\n\nCommon filters include language (e.g., searching only for papers published in English) and date of publication (e.g., searching only for papers published after 2005). The limiters available may depend on the database, but they can be useful if a term returns too many results.