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ENGL1A, Starer: Develop Search Strategies

Suggested Search Terms for Voting Issues

Words or phrases that describe your topic generally, and your research question in particular are called keywords. Keywords are the vocabulary that will lead you to discover and unlock relevant sources for your research. Also, brainstorm synonyms or related terms for your keywords. You can never have too many keywords at the start of your research! Avoid using words that don't describe your topic like how, is, cause, effect, etc.

The following are some suggested search terms to get you started. To narrow your search, combine the following terms with other keywords. For example voter registration AND African-Americans, gerrymandering AND Georgia, etc:

  • Contested elections
  • Disenfranchisement
  • Elections
  • Electoral College
  • Gerrymandering
  • Political participation
  • Popular vote
  • Proportional representation
  • Redistricting
  • Right to vote
  • Suffrage AND United States AND History
  • United States Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • Voter fraud
  • Voter registration
  • Voter suppression
  • Voter turnout
  • Voting AND United States

Brainstorm Search Terms

Creating a concept map is an effective way to brainstorm search terms.

voting concept map

Source: Credo Reference

Boolean Search Operators

Think of each search word as having a set of results that is connected to it. These sets can be combined in different ways to create larger or smaller sets of results. You can also exclude certain sets from your results. Boolean operators — AND, OR, and NOT — are the tools you use to combine these sets of results.

The table below explains how Boolean operators work.

Boolean Operator Examples Results

AND

Boolean AND


children
AND
poverty

AND combines different terms when both must be present. Use AND to narrow a search.

OR

Boolean OR


children
OR
youth

OR combines terms when at least one must be present. Use OR to broaden a search.

NOT

Boolean NOT


java
NOT
coffee

NOT eliminates irrelevant terms from a search. Use NOT when you want to exclude all records that contain a certain term.

Using Boolean Operators Tutorial