Skip to Main Content

ALEC 240 - Presentation of Sales Strategies for Agricultural Audiences

ALEC 240 Research & Verbal Citation Guide

Search Strategies

Search Strategies

For additional searching strategies, please refer to UTK's General Search Tips & Strategies Libguide (opens in a new tab).

Keyword Searches

In a keyword search, natural speech is condensed down to include only the most important terms relevant to the subject of your search.

To improve the quality of keywords and retrieve more relevant search results, the searcher may wish to consult a thesaurus to discover established terms in the agricultural controlled vocabulary. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's tool, AGROVOC (opens in a new tab), or the USDA's National Agricultural Library Thesaurus and Glossary (opens in a new tab) are both excellent tools to develop keyword searches with agricultural subjects.


Filters are an invaluable tool in research, where the searcher can limit search results to only include resources that fit a certain criteria. A date filter may be used to limit results to only display recent articles, or a resource type filter can be used to only retrieve peer-reviewed resources. Although the availability of filters vary from database to database, nearly all academic searching tools include many options to filter search results.

Boolean Operators

The Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT can be used to develop a search. While AND and NOT narrow a search, OR expands it and can increase the number of results. Combine Boolean operators with keyword searches to construct general or narrow queries.

For example:

Cattle AND BSE

This search query limits the results to include only resources that contain both the words “cattle” and “BSE.”


Cattle AND mad cow disease OR bovine spongiform encephalopathy OR BSE

This search query limits results to include only resources that contain cattle and any of the three terms for BSE


Using parentheses in search queries can be an effective way to control the order of operations which your query is run on a database. By combining the usage of Boolean operators and parentheses in search queries, more synonyms and spelling variations can be found in a literature review.

For example:

 (Cattle or beef or bull or cow) AND (mad cow disease OR bovine spongiform encephalopathy OR BSE)

This query returns results that contain at least one term from the first group in parentheses and one term from the second group of parentheses.


The use of wildcards (in this case the asterisk *) will allow the searcher to retrieve results from all forms of a word.

For example:

The search term educat* will retrieve educate, educator, education, and educational.