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Tips for Searching Article Databases: Creating a Search Statement

Finding the right information isn't just luck. Creating a strategy is essential for successful search results. Knowledge about information resources and search strategies will produce meaningful search results, even when you are not familiar with the topi

Creating a Search Statement

The most difficult part of conducting a good search is usually not figuring out which buttons to push, but deciding which terms to use and how to combine them to find literature that is "on topic." This requires a strategy that will optimize the number of relevant titles that you can find. One component of this strategy is the search statement. 

Usually, a topic can be described in many different ways. As there are over 500,000 words in the English language, there are numberous words that could be used to describe the topic. A search statement is a query using specific search terms that allow a bibliographic database to retrieve records for the desired information. Where to begin?

  • Break your search statement/question into main concepts and keywords. 
  • Note other possible natural vocabulary keywords and applicable concept terms while doing background research
  • Identify synonyms of those keywords. 
  • Create concepts of 1-3 words. 

Search Statement Tip:

Do not type in "stem cell methodology for changing valine to glutamic acid in hemoglobin" because the database program may search for exactly those words in exactly that order. There may be very relevant materials that do not have this exact phrase, but do contain the same concepts. Break your search statement down into more manageable chunks. In the search statement example below, your main concepts would be "sickle cell anemia," "hemoglobin," and "stem cell methodology." The concepts you identify may have other words that relate to each other, or there may be other words with similar or the same meanings. The search statement example below may also have additional concepts of interest to identify synonymous or related concepts (e.g. valine and glutamic acid), upon which you can further develop your strategy. 

Search Statement

Identify potential stem cell methodology that could be used for changing valine to glutamic acid in hemoglobin of people with sickle cell disease. 


Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3

Sickle Cell Anemia


Stem Cell Methodology
Sickle Cell Disease Beta Chain Stem Cells
Hemoglobin S Disease Beta-globin Gene Gene Silencing
Globulinopathies Condon Nucleotide 6 Gene Splicing
  (middle) AT Gene Transfer Techniques
  Valine Targeted Gene Repair
  Glutamic Acid Genetic Engineering
    RNA Antisense



Now you have several new search terms that can be used to broaden the results of your search using bibliographic databases, while still finding content within the same scope.

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