Skip to Main Content

COMM160 College Communications 1

Welcome to Centennial College's COMM 160 Library Guide.

Creating an Effective Search Strategy

Finding the Right Keywords

Before entering keywords in the search box, it is useful to write down several words that best describe your research topic. It can be helpful to think about the different elements that make up your topic, including: key group; location; date (is this an historical issue or a current one?); or concept (e.g., poverty, feminism, multiculturalism). Use a thesaurus if necessary to generate more words.

Descriptive words can then be connected by using words such as AND and OR to form meaningful search statements.

Using Connectors, aka Boolean Operators

Connectors, known formally as "Boolean operators", help the database interpret your search. Using them correctly will help you narrow or expand your search as necessary.  A few important connectors are:

AND Narrows a search by joining different keywords to find resources that contain both words (e.g., immigrants AND jobs).

OR Broadens a search by connecting similar words (synonyms). Will find articles that contain at least one of these keywords (e.g. immigrants OR migrants).

NOT Narrows a search by excluding a term. NOT connector will find articles that contain the first keyword but not the second keyword (e.g. Canadian NOT American).

Example: Developing Keywords and Constructing a Search

Step 1: Describe your Topic
Discuss the impact of social media on teenagers' mental health.

Step 2: Identify keywords for your topic.

In your search, keywords will be connected using AND.

Main Concept 1 Concept 2          Concept 3       
mental health social media teenagers

Step 3: Find synonyms 

In your search, synonyms will be connected using OR.

Main Concept 1 Concept 2          Concept 3       
"mental health" "social media" teen*  (* searches teen and teenager)
Kinds of mental health issues
(e.g., depression, anxiety)
online, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter adolescent, youth, juvenile

Step 4: Put it all together 
Main Concept 1 Concept 2          Concept 3       

(Main concept OR synonym for main concept) AND (Concept 2 OR synonym) AND (Concept 3 OR synonym)

("mental health" OR depression OR anxiety)  AND ("social media" OR online) AND (teen* OR adolescent OR youth)

Step 5: Run your search!

Using the search above as an example, run your own library search using the box below.

Find books, articles, videos, and more.

You can also use the Advanced Search page of the library to run your search. This way, each concept gets its own box, helping you keep your ideas organized.

chat loading...