Research resources for BIO 111 (Lab)

Step 2

After reviewing this page about how to get better keywords and few search tips for databases, try out a few searches in one of the Biology databases you've opened up in another tab or window. 

Remember - searching is a process! You will not get a quick, Google answer. You have to figure out the words that the biologists are using to describe their experimental variables and create your search based on that (try scanning the Subjects of the results you are getting to see how to adjust your keywords!)

Once you've found a couple of sources, check out the "Is it Scholarly"? tab or click Next below!


Unlike the Web, databases require us to be careful about our search terms.


1. What are Keywords?

Keywords are terms - words and phrases – used to search electronic databases, online catalogs, and the Web for information. To more easily identify keywords, frame your topic into a statement or question and then select the most important concepts. These are the terms you will use in your search.


Ex: What are the effects of distilled water on the germination process with a radish?

Sample BIO 111 Search Screen

5. Example Search Screen

Search Results Screen in Agricola


3. Truncation – searches for a root word with varying endings.  Use the * or ? symbols, depending on the database.

Ex: germinat* will result in: germination, germinated, germinates...etc.


What is the benefit?  If you use truncation, you are able to use the root word and get results with the various endings - so one search instead of many.

Choosing Keywords

2. Suggestions

Suggestion #1 It’s most effective to keep your database search simple, using up to two or three keywords or phrases. Searching is a process. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t successful at first; try new keyword combinations.


Suggestion #2  We can’t always know exactly how the author has chosen to express their concept – so always think of synonyms – terms that mean the same, or almost the same, thing.

  Ex:    radish vs Raphanus sativus   


Suggestion #3  If you are searching for an article in an online database, and your search produces too many results, you can easily reduce and focus your results list by:  adding or changing keywords to make your topic more specific, or add Limiters such as Date Range (Published Date From) or Scholarly/Peer-reviewed  journals


If you get too few results, consider reducing the number of search terms or limiters, or trying keywords that are broader in concept.

Ex:   fertilizer vs Miracle-gro