Skip to Main Content

College of Biosciences Resources: Searching Tips

Resources and tools for all COB students at KCU.

Research, Step by Step

1. Identify your topic; take time to write it out in the form of a question. Consider all angles of your chosen topic and break out the key ideas or concepts. 

2. Do background research; background questions search for general knowledge about a topic. Utilize textbooks, reference sources, even review articles to help set the context. 

3. Identify keywords. In PubMed, use MeSH terms to find the relevant terminology for your specific search. Some databases offer a thesaurus or a subject terms index to help you find the most relevant terminology. Once you've started your search, look at relevant articles to see their indexed terms. 

4. Start your search. Use our Discovery Tool to find a broad source of information that is available in our electronic resources, but then hit the databases and see what more specific information you can find using the terms you've identified. 

5. Evaluate what you've found; are you finding too much information? Or too little? Your topic may need to be refined. 

Need help with any of these steps? Ask a Librarian!

Other Search Operators

Quotations: Search for an exact phrase by putting quotation marks around that phrase

Wildcard: Use ? in a search term to replace unknown characters (wom?n to find woman or women)

Use # for alternate spellings (colo#r to find color or colour)

Truncation: Use the asterisk * at the end of words to search for variants of a word (librar* will search for library, librarian, libraries, librarianship, etc)

Another Helpful Tip

Please note: in many (but not all), databases the AND is implied. 

  • For example, Google automatically puts an AND in between your search terms.
  • Though all your search terms are included in the results, they may not be connected together in the way you want.
  • For example, this search: college students test anxiety is translated to: college AND students AND test AND anxiety. The words may appear individually throughout the resulting records.
  • You can search using phrases to make your results more specific.
  • For example: "college students" AND "test anxiety". This way, the phrases show up in the results as you expect them to be.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators can be used in databases to help expand or narrow down a search. The three most common operators are AND, OR, and NOT

Why use Boolean operators? They can focus a search, particularly when your topic of interest contains multiple search terms. Using them can also connect the pieces of information to make your search more precise. 

AND works as a plus sign, where your results will include both terms. OR is typically used with synonyms - you don't care which term appears in your results, as long as at least one is present. NOT will exclude the term which follows it in your search. 

These operators must always be capitalized and can be used multiple times within a search. Combining Boolean operators can help focus your search even further. 


  • alcoholism OR "alcohol abuse" NOT "alcoholics anonymous" 
  • "childhood obesity" AND "academic performance" NOT Canada
  • "animal cloning" OR "animal duplication" AND jellyfish NOT sheep

You can use parentheses to build a search with a combination of Boolean Operators.


  • (children OR kids) AND nutrition
    • Notice that the OR links two synonyms
  • (ethic* OR moral*) AND (bioengineering OR cloning)
    • You can use two or more sets of parentheses
  • ((teenager OR teen OR adolescent) AND media) NOT television
    • You can also use parentheses within parentheses