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Michigan State University

Entomology: Search Strategy

This guide provides general library resources for entomology students and faculty, recommendations for resources for the general public, and specialized resources for specific entomology classes.

Searching Basics

Being an expert searcher means more than typing sentences into Google. Use these tips to become a better literature searcher! 

An image of a magnifying glass inspecting an orang


Using keywords (the main topics of your research topic) instead of full sentences will give you much better results. For example:

  • bioethics instead of What are ethical issues in science?
  • climate change instead of What is climate change?

Try to come up with synonyms for your keywords, too. For example, use both climate change and global warming.

Coming up with a comprehensive search strategy is easiest when you take time to come up with excellent keyword lists. Sit down with your research question and ask yourself, what are the main points? What are some keywords for those main topics? Are there synonyms for those keywords?

Spending a little time now can save you a ton of time in the future! This can be one of the most important steps to a great search!

Quotes & Wildcards

Putting phrases in quotes keep the words in those phrases together, searching the database for those words in the order you want, instead of searching for those words independently wherever they occur. For example:

  • Use "climate change" and "global warming" instead of climate change and global warming

Truncation and Wildcards also help you expand or clarify your search.

  • Truncation (often an asterisk*) will bring back words that start with the root you provide. For example
    • people* will bring back results that include both "people" and "peoples"
    • insect* will bring back "insect", "insects", and "insecticide"
    • Be Cautious! if you truncate too much, you will bring back many results that you don't want. For example, if you truncate computer to com* you will also get results for "community", "communication", "communist", and "computer"!
  • Wildcards can be used if there are multiple spellings of a word and you want all results for the concept, regardless of how the word is spelled. Wildcards might be an asterisk (*) or a question mark (?). For example:
    • wom?n will bring back results for both woman and women
    • colo*r will bring back results for color and colour

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators connect keywords together to bring back more targeted search results. Boolean operators include AND, OR, and NOT. You will often see these capitalized in long search strings to see them more clearly.

  • AND narrows your search and will bring back search results that have both keywords in the same paper, but no papers that only have one keyword.
  • OR broadens your search. This is often used to connect similar keywords
  • NOT can be used to exclude similar but significantly different ideas

See the image below for examples.

An image of a 3 circle venn diagram describing boolean operators with puppies and kittesn.

Putting It All Together

A completed search strategy may look something like this:

("climate change" OR "global warming") AND ("invasive species" OR "pest species" OR "introduced species")

Note that the parenthesis keep like terms together.

Check out the video below for more tips on finding scholarly articles!