Political Science and Public Administration: Start Guide for Research

Choose Search Terms

Key Concepts

Identify the key concepts of your topic and enter just those terms (not the full sentences) into the search box. 


Consider Synonyms, Broader Terms, Narrower Terms, and Related Terms: 

For example, for a search on health care policy consider the following: "health care policy", "health care reform", "medical policy", "medical care" Public Health Administration", "health Policy". Then to narrow the terms even more, you could narrow the search terms to an aspect of health care policy, such as Medicare/Medicaid or to a country "United States" or Germany or broader such as Europe.


Subject Headings: 

Articles are assigned subject headings. Use these as keywords to broaden or narrow your results. In many of the library's databases, you will find the list of assigned subject headings (sometimes called descriptors) in the record for the article. 

Some databases offer a thesaurus that lists related subject headings. Usually, you can find a link to this list near the top of the page.


Phrase Searching:

To find an exact phrase, use double quotes, such as "Health care", "public policy", or "health insurance" or "medical care".

Combine Search Terms

Boolean Operators 

Boolean Operators are words (AND, OR, NOT) that combine or exclude keywords in a search. 

AND narrows your search

  • "Health care" AND "United States" finds resources with both terms

OR broadens your search

  • "Health care" OR "medical care" finds resources with either term or both terms
  • "United States" OR "USA" 

 NOT excludes terms

  • "Health care" NOT "United States" excludes all books with the term "United States" - more likely to have results for other countries or regional/state focused publications.
  • AND and OR are connectors we use in databases to combine ideas.

Expand Search Terms

Please note that the symbols vary by database, so it is in your best interest to look at the Help or Search Tips or Advanced Search section of each database for the correct symbols. 



Add a symbol (these vary by database, examples include *, ?, $ ) to find variant endings of a word, which will broaden your search. Enter the root of a word and place the truncation symbol at the end:

  • insur* will retrieve insure, insuring, insurance



Add a symbol (these vary by database, but examples include *, ?, $ ) within a word to find variant spellings of a term.

  •  wom*n will find women or woman

Selecting and Using Keywords