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BFA Seminar Acting & Musical Theater Students Research Guide: Search Strategies

This guide is for Laura Lane's and Kaitlin Hopkins' BFA students.

These Tips will Save you Time

The right keywords will make a difference in how quickly and efficiently you get the results you need.

Every word you type in the search box counts. The database (or webpage) scans the text of either a document or a webpage and returns items that contain the words you typed in the search box.

So, if you aren't finding anything, it's probably the words you are using in the search box.

The video below shows you how to take usable keywords from a topic question.


Use Boolean searching. These link keywords and phrases. It's only three little words to remember.
  • And - endangered AND birds
  • Or - endangered OR birds
  • Not - "endangered birds" NOT pigeons

You can use these in endless combinations to specify the kinds of items you get in your result list.

Additional Boolean Search Tips

In addition to "phrase searching," Boolean operators, and truncation (watch the Search Strategies video if these terms are not familiar), you can also try using wildcard searches

Like truncation, wildcard searches will expand your results. Wildcard searches allow the database to replace the wildcard symbol with any letters that would make up a real word. It's like a shorthand way of typing every possible word that fits the pattern with OR in between. Not only will this save you time, but it might also give you alternative keywords you hadn't even thought of.

Here's a table to illustrate how some of these symbols (including the truncation asterisk) typically work.

Symbol What it does Sample search Instead of typing
* replaces zero or more letters at the end of a word
(this is truncation)
comput* computer OR computing OR computational OR...
# replaces at most one letter ne#t net OR neat OR next OR nest OR...
? replaces only one letter b?t bat OR bet OR bit OR bot OR but OR...


REMEMBER: Some databases may use these symbols differently or may use different symbols, so check the database's help section if you're having problems with wildcards.