Skip to Main Content

Laurel School

Upper School: English: AP English: Prison Nation

Traditional vs. Natural Language Search

What search strategy will work best?

  • Traditional vs. natural language search strategies
    • "natural language" search is the use of everyday language in a sentence or question--as we talk
      • Example:  What is the effect of sleep deprivation on teens?
      • This technique is used effectively with sophisticated search engines like Google
    • "traditional" search is the use of keywords and Boolean operators to retrieve search results
        • Keywords are words associated with your topic
        • What are Boolean operators?  and, or, not
      • Example:  effect and sleep and deprivation and teens
      • Example (with use of a phrase):  effect and "sleep deprivation" and (teens or adolescents) not children
      • This technique in used when searching library catalogs and research databases

Hint:  Remember to do multiple searches using a variety of keywords in various combinations to get a variety of results.  This is particularly important as you use switch from one resource to another.

More Search Methods

Below are some other search techniques you may find useful:

Truncation: adding a symbol* to a root word to locate various forms of that word


teen* would locate teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers

child$ would locate child, children, children's, childhood

*Note:  Symbols may vary depending on the resource you are using, e.g., *, $, !, or #

  • Check the help section of the resource for correct symbol to use.

Wildcard:  Substituting a symbol for a letter in a word to locate various forms of that word

Example:  wom!n to locate woman and women

Research Hints

Remember these two tips:

1. Use quotes when searching to keep phrases together.  Also, try to be as specific as possible.  For example, instead of civil war, search for "American Civil War"

2. Use Boolean operators (AND OR NOT).  You may also substitute their symbols:

  • For AND, use the plus sign +
  • For NOT, use the minus sign -

When searching in Google, remember to place the symbols right next to the search term.  This is especially helpful with the minus sign:

  • Washington -George

Subject Searching

Another valuable way to search library catalogs and research databases is to look for SUBJECT HEADINGS!

What are subject headings?

The main theme(s) or topic(s) of an item

Library catalogs records and research database results usually include a section called subject(s)subject heading(s),subject term(s) or something similar.  These subject listings are usually links.  Look for subject headings that work for your topic, click on that link and access other items that have the same subject heading!  It's that simple!