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Library Research Tutorial: Adapted from Canvas Course

This Research Guide runs through the same information as the Library Tutorial course in Canvas. Use this guide to quickly access that information without needing to log into Canvas, and use it as a refresher for the main points in the Canvas tutorial.


Choose important words from your research question/statement.

Brainstorm synonyms (words with similar meanings) of your keywords to create a larger list of keywords.

One way to plan your search uses a table to organize the most important terms by columns, with keywords and synonyms in rows underneath.

For "What effect does television violence have on children?" the table may look like:

table showing a way to construct a search; the first concept is television OR media, connected to the second concept violence using AND, connected to the third concept of children OR youth using AND

This table allows you to construct one complex search query, as in this example from Academic Search Premier, a database that the UNK Library subscribes to.

screenshot showing the Academic Search Premier interface with the concepts from the previous table entered

See the next box for information on those asterisks. 

Boolean Operators (And, Or, Not)

The database search form in the previous box shows how you might use two Boolean operators ("AND" and "OR") and a wildcard character: the asterisk (*). Using Boolean operators and other symbols affect the search results.

And, Or, Not

The table below shows how Boolean operators can change search results.  This method can also be used with most Internet search engines.




How it works

Search results contain both Term #1 and Term #2

Search results contain either Term #1 and Term #2 (or both)

Search results contain Term #1 but filter out results with Term #2

Effects on search results


Fewer results


More results


Fewer results

Wildcards and Quotation Marks

Using an asterisk (*) at the end of a partial word will broaden search results by including multiple word endings.  This is called using a wildcard.

  • Using child* will search for all variations of the word child, including child's, children, children's, or childhood.

When searching for a phrase (two or more words together), placing quotation marks around that phrase will usually narrow your search results:

  • A new search on "Parents Television Council" -- with the quotation marks included -- will find only those records containing the three words together in the exact order.