The building block of a library database search is keywords. Keywords are central ideas or terms within your research question or problem.
BOOLEAN SEARCH OPERATORS
Once you have your keywords identified (2-3 is a good place to begin), you then need to connect them together in a way the database understands how to search. This is done using the Boolean search operators AND, OR, and NOT. Connecting keywords using these search operators creates a search string.
We call the written version of your keywords with boolean search operators the search string. Writing your search string at the beginning of your research process will help you better approach searching in library databases.
Example search string
exercise OR physical activity AND high blood pressure OR hypertension AND treatment
Watch the video to learn more about review articles v primary research articles, how to tell the difference between the two, and why each is useful for research.
PRIMARY RESEARCH ARTICLES
Primary research articles are where the authors of the article conducted their own original research in a clinic, laboratory, out in the field, etc. The published article, usually published in a peer-reviewed journal, is the detailed write-up of the research the authors conducted during their study. There are different kinds of primary studies. Other terminology for describing different kinds of studies include: experimental studies, clinical trials, empirical studies, and more.
Review articles, also called literature reviews or secondary sources, synthesize known research on a particular topic and analyze this research to discover possible trends or areas for further study in the field. Review articles summarize the current state of research on a particular topic.
Library databases (see the databases tab for more details) can be used for finding a variety of scholarly articles. The trick is recognizing what you are looking at once you run a search. Look for these clues to discover if your article is a primary research study: