About This Page
As of March 25, 2011 (Animal care Policy #12) USDA now requires the search strategy be included, not just a list of keywords. It must include scientifically relevant terminology.
This page will help you with strategies for identifying the best keywords, phrases, or combinations of both to use to search for information on any topic.
Using AND, OR, & NOT
AND and OR are used to connect two or more keywords using Boolean logic. They are also know as Boolean operators.
Use AND to connect keywords that you think there is a relationship between, or are associated, such as swine AND euthanasia, or "sparrow AND "territorial intrusion". It also reduces the number of results.
Use OR to connect keywords that are synonyms, such as analgesic OR anaesthetic OR anaesthetic, or to account for singular and plural forms of the same word, such as alternative OR alternatives. It also increases the number of results.
Use NOT to connect keywords that produce unwanted results, such as pigs NOT guinea. It also reduces the number of results.
What is a Search Strategy?
A search strategy is more than a list of keywords used in a search. It includes the way the keywords were combined using one more of the connectors AND, OR, or NOT. For example,
- keyword, keyword, keyword is not a search strategy.
- keyword AND keyword NOT keyword is a search strategy.
Note that USDA also specifically looks for search strategies that include the use of the keyword alternative or alternatives, e.g. animal testing alternatives.
Constructing a Search Strategy
Here are some tips to help you develop a good search strategy.
1. Use keywords and not a complete sentence or sentence fragment like you would in Google.
2. Use keywords derived from your research topic.
3. Use AND to connect two or three keywords per strategy. Any more than that risks overwhelming the database's search engine and increases the risk of a "false negative" result That is, returning no search results when in fact there are relevant articles present in the database.
4. Use quotation marks when you want to search a phrase, e.g., "postive reinforcement", "territorial intrusion".
5. Too few or poor results? Develop multiple search strategies using synonyms and related terms to find different results.