Creating a search strategy

Having trouble finding the information you need using the online databases? Sometimes creating your search strategy is the hardest part! Practice makes perfect. Log into one of our great online resources and try it out!

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Creating your search statement

The first step to successfully finding the information you need is to create a search strategy. What are you trying to find? Write one sentence explaining the information you need to find. Be specific. Can you think of synonyms or alternate words that you can use in your search?


  • Use the different search features to structure your search 

Basic Searches only search within a single field (i.e. author, title, keyword). This type of search will give you an idea of how much information a database contains relating to your topic.

Advanced Searches allow you to search multiple keywords within different fields (i..e author and title or author and subject). This type of search allows you to narrow down the results of the initial search.

It is possible to set the parameters or limits of your search. You can change  the date of publication, format (i.e. book, newspaper article, video, website), language, etc. Check out Tips for Searching Article Databases for more information.


Let’s try an example using the Canada in Context database.

What historical events occurred in Canada between 1850 and 1914?

What are the most important words from this research question?

Historical Events; Canada; 1850-1914

Sometimes it is important that you look for alternate spellings or synonyms.

Canadian History, 1850-1914


When  Canadian History is entered in the search bar we see that there are hundreds of articles. By including a range of dates in your search you will limit the search. A narrower date range will focus your search on the time period you are interested in