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HSERV 268 - Research Methods : Prof. Spencer: Search Strategy

This guide will help students in Prof. Spencers Research Methods class with the Literature Review assignment

Find your Keywords

When searching the databases for articles, do not type in whole sentences. 

Use the KEYWORDS of your topic when searching for sources.

e.g. search Mental Illness AND Employment AND Discrimination


Think of other terms that can be used and try those also: 

Mental Health, Mental Illness, Mental Disorder, Psychiatric Disorder, {specific disorder: Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety etc.}

Discrimination, Bias, Stigma, Prejudice, Stereotype, etc.


Try using narrower or broader terms:

Racism (Narrower) < Discrimination (Broader) 



Be careful of words with multiple meanings, use alternate or additional words to clarify:

(e.g. Viking (Norse warrior); Viking (moon lander); Viking (football team); Viking (WCC student newspaper)


You might need to search multiple times in a single database before deciding it does not have any useful articles.

Use the asterisk * to truncate words and widen your search. Child* will search for Child, Children and Childhood.

Use quotation marks to keep phrases together: e.g. "Maternal Mortality" 


e.g. search Mental Illness AND Employment AND Discrimination

 or Mental Health AND Work* AND Bias

or  Psychiatric Disorder* AND Hiring AND Stereotyp*

Try your search terms in different combinations to get the greatest number of results.


Go to the FINDING ARTICLES tab for a list of recommended databases covering Social Sciences.


Keyword Caveats

While authors use a variety words in their writing that mean similar things, some terms can come with their own stigma and using them in your searches can result in older results, as they are no longer in use, or can have a pejorative meaning leading to articles with a skewed perspective:

In 1980, the condition Manic Depression was replaced with BiPolar Disorder in the DSM III. Using the term Manic Depression in a database or internet search will likely return outdated results. 

In December 2022, the Library of Congress replaced the subject term Illegal Aliens with Noncitizens and Illegal Immigrants, due to calls that the original term was 'dehumanizing', although many think the second term is no better than the first.

Some terms may not yet have widespread use and may return fewer results than expected e.g. Unhoused vs Homeless. Trying a variety of keywords and running multiple searches may be necessary. If you are having trouble searching for articles or are not getting the results you want, contact your librarian.

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