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Public Policy

Guide to public policy research

Search Strategies

Always think about different ways to say the same thing.  Start with keywords to describe your topic, within results, read  the abstract and look at the subject headings to identify additional keywords to use and revise the search (if needed).
Retrieve too many results? Limit to scholarly articles, limit words to abstract or subject.

Search Strategies: 
Start with keywords (place phrases in quotes), use connectors (or / and) and look for the subject headings specific to each database.

Using Quotation Marks
Using quotation marks means that the database will search for the entire phrase, not the individual words.

 
"foreign policy" "human rights"
"transnational security" "middle east"
"political participation" "border security"
"voting rights" "nuclear weapons"
"foreign aid" "military intervention"

 


 

 

 

 

 

Using *
When you place an asterisk at the end of a search term it searches for words with any possible ending

 
environment* = environment or environments or environmental intervention* = intervention or interventions
risk* = risk or risks immigra* = immigrant or immigrants or  immigration
threat* = threat or threats terroris* = terrorist or terrorists or terrorism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using OR 
When you use OR between search terms, the database will search for any of them. This is useful if there might be multiple ways to refer to your topic or when any of the words will do

Graphic showing the boolean connector OR using a venn diagram

"middle east" or "arab state" or yemen or egypt
globalization or multinational
"social media" or twitter or facebook 
policy or policies
wto or "world trade organization"
 

Using AND 
When you use AND between two search terms, the database will only show you search results that contain all of those search terms.

Graphic showing the boolean connector AND using a venn diagram

("world hunger" or "global hunger") and gmo*
("counter terrorism" or counterterrorism) and ("social media" or twitter or facebook)
"foreign policy" and china
immigra* and (policy or policies or legislation)
 

Additional keywords:
law or legislation
policy or policies
"government policy
specific countries

 

In addition, you can search by a known author.

 

Many databases also allow for proximity searching.

Information for the Ebscohost databases:

You can use a proximity search to search for two or more words that occur within a specified number of words (or fewer) of each other in the databases. Proximity searching is used with a Keyword or Boolean search.

The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number (to specify the number of words). The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched, as follows:

Near Operator (N) - N5 finds the words if they are within five words of one another regardless of the order in which they appear.

For example, type tax N5 reform to find results that would match tax reform as well as reform of income tax.

Within Operator (W) - In the following example, W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another and in the order in which you entered them.

For example, type tax W8 reform to find results that would match tax reform but would not match reform of income tax.

In addition, multiple terms can be used on either side of the operator. See the following examples:

  • (baseball or football or basketball) N5 (teams or players)
  • oil W3 (disaster OR clean-up OR contamination)

 

Information for the Proquest Databases:
NEAR/n or N/n