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This guide is meant for YSP participants to get to know academic resources and how to access them.

The Research Process

Creating your search

Break down your research question: We have to break down research questions because databases cannot break down sentences. 

Example research question: How does the mineral composition of volcanic rock in Icelandic shield volcanoes differ from those in the Hawaiian shield volcanoes?

  1. Pick out the important word of your research question. These words provide the foundation of your search terms. 
    • Key Words and phrases: "mineral composition", "volcanic rock" volcanoes, "Icelandic shield", "Hawaiian shield"
  2. How else can you say your keywords and phases? Think of how you can become more broad and more narrow for some of your search terms.
    • To make "Hawaiian shield volcanoes" more narrow I can search for specific volcanoes in the shield such as Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Kohala.
    • "Volcanic rock" can be rephrases as lava, magma, basalt, pumice, rhyolite, ect. 
  3. Connect your search terms using Boolean Operators (AND, OR, NOT)


Venn diagram with overlapping section shaded


Use AND to focus and combine different aspects of your topic. The results list is made up of only sources that mention both terms.

Example: Icelandic volcanoes AND mineral composition


Venn diagram with both circles and overlapping area shaded

Use OR to expand your search and find synonyms/related terms. The results list is made up sources at mention either search terms.

Example: Lava OR Magma


Venn diagram with only one circle shaded

Use NOT to exclude a word or phrase from your search. The results list will bring back only sources that mention the first term and remove any that have the second term.

Example: Hawaiian shield volcano NOT Kohala

Quotation Marks

Place quotation marks around your phrases to make sure that the search engine locates the complete phrase, and not the individual words.

For example:

Example Academic Search Complete search for "john smith" without quotation marks

will find information on all people named "John," and all people named "Smith."



Example Academic Search Complete search for "'john smith'" in quotation marks

will only give you results for people named "John Smith."

***The Asterisk***

An asterisk acts as any combination of letters that follow the preceding word.

For example:

Example Academic Search Complete for "writ*"

Gives you all words that start with writ!

This includes: write, writing, and written.

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