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Medieval and Renaissance Studies: Keyword search techniques

Keywords and common operators for searching

Before starting your library research, reflect on your subject or research question and decide on some keywords, then combine your keywords with useful boolean operators.

If a research question focused on the impacts of armed conflict and war on the diets of people in medieval periods, for example, the keywords might be:

  • Armed conflict
  • War
  • Diet
  • Food
  • Nutrition
  • Medieval 

After determining the best keywords, select useful boolean operators to define the relationships between the keywords so that your search tool provides the best results possible.

Here is a list of the most common operators

Operator Usage Example
AND Combines two or more keywords - narrows the search food AND war
( OR ) Retrieves synonyms or related words - expands the search (food OR diet OR nutrition)
NOT Eliminates the word the follows - narrows the search medieval NOT renaissance
" " Searches multiple words as a string - makes searching more precise "armed conflict"
* Truncates the root of a word - expands the search war* (will find war, wars, warring, warmonger, etc.)

You can combine all of these techniques into one search string, such as:

("Armed conflict" OR war*) AND (food OR diet* OR nutrition) AND medieval

If you would like more assistance with keyword searching and search strategies, consult this text, or email the librarian.