Most of us look for information by keyword searching. Since every database is structured differently, it is difficult to account for every search interface.

However, there are searching strategies that combine keywords in certain ways to optimize searches.
AND and OR
If you want two words or phrases together, try connecting them with AND:

  • Woodrow Wilson AND public administration
  • performance measurement AND history

If you want variant search terms or variant spellings, try using OR:

  • labor OR labour
  • jobs OR employment OR employees or careers

Truncation or Wild Card Symbols

Sometimes variations in word endings can be obtained by using a word root with a special wild card symbol to mean “and whatever comes next.”
For example:

  • administrat*   yields administration, administrations, administrator, administrators, and all other variations on that word in Google and many other systems.  Check the help file for your database to find out which symbol to use as a wild card.

Exact Phrase

In some systems, an exact phrase can be placed in quotation marks for searching:

  • “bureau of government research”

If you have found formal subject headings, and the subject headings you encounter are not specific enough, you can try keyword phrases like these:

  • Public finance
  • Public management
  • Government performance


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