Key Points: 
Search Strategies

Do you find too many articles?  ...too few articles?  Are the articles relevant?
To develop a sophisticated approach to researching your topic, use some of the search strategies below to narrow, broaden and produce more relevant results.

Sample topic:  Information about evangelism or outreach to children in New York's inner city.

Operator (Boolean)
Strategy
Use key terms for searching
AND   Use to search different concepts together. Produces fewer results.

children AND evangelism

OR Use to link similar terms; group with parenthesis; produces more results
(children OR child) AND (evangelism OR evangelize)
NOT Use to specify a term you do not want in the search results.

(children OR child) AND (evangelism OR evangelize) NOT school

Excludes results with school.

Truncation (*) Searches the ROOT of a word ended with *

child* AND evangel*NOT school

Searches: child, children AND evangel, evangelism, evangelical, evangelized, etc.

Use fewer concepts Increases number of results
child* AND evangel*
Use more concepts Decreases number of results
child* AND (outreach OR evangel*) AND inner AND city
Phrase
Search
Use quotation marks; Refines search
child* AND (outreach OR evangel*) AND “inner city” AND “New York”

Proximity Search:
N

NEAR: Finds words that occur "near" a specified range of each other. Use when only word RANGE is important.
inner city N5 new york

Searches: inner-city in New York or New York's inner city

Proximity Search:
W

WITH: Finds words that occur near a specified range of each other. Use when word ORDER and RANGE are important.

inner city W5 new york

Searches: inner-city in New York but not New York's inner city
Subject Field
Indexes
Thesaurus
Some database may include any or all three. Subject fields, indexes and thesauri are specific and unique to a database and its content. Respectively, they are used to divide information in related subjects, categorize and group database content, and offer collections of "controlled vocabulary" that includes synonyms, related terms, and narrower and broader terms.
Limit/Expand
Functions
Look for limiting options on the database search screen.
Examples: Full text • peer reviewed • date • related terms • language

See: Composition 303 PowerPoint, Search Strategies (PDF) for several search examples to try.