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Occupational Therapy Assisting: Search Strategies & Key Words

Find scholarly resources in occupational therapy

Google for general information from websites


Helpful Hints from Google

Start simple

 Start by entering a basic name or word. If you're looking for a place or product in a specific location, enter the name along with the town or zip code.

Search with an exact phrase - Use Quotation Marks

Put quotation marks around words "[any word]" to search for an exact phrase in an exact order. Keep in mind that searching with quotes might exclude relevant results. For instance, a search for "Alexander Bell" will miss pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.

Don't worry about punctuation

Search ignores punctuation. This includes @#%^*()=[]\ and other special characters.

Use descriptive words

The more unique the word, the more likely you are to get relevant results.

Include or ignore words and characters in your search

Highlight common words and characters such as the and & if they are essential to your search (as in a movie or book title) by putting quotation marks "the" around them. You can also use the minus - sign to specify particular items you don't want in your results, like ingredients in a recipe.



Pick Key Words On Your Topic

  • Brainstorm your topic and think of important vocabulary (words)
  • Think if there are alternative words authors may use
  • Choose the most basic form of your key words for searching 
  • Do not use contractions, uppercase letters or punctuation
  • Use parentheses for any phrases or words you want to find together  Example: "cell membrane" "genetic code"
  • Spelling Counts! You will miss many results with misspelled words.
  • Leave out articles and prepositions
  • Use descriptive words only is necessary
  • Try different synonyms
  • Put your most important words first. Word order matters in Google.
  • Think of your topic and alternate and related terms: climate change, global warming, pollution, acid rain, etc.
  • Try different keywords together.


Why are Keywords Important?

The search engine (google) or the database you use will look for your keywords in specific fields such as the title or abstract.

Databases have controlled vocabulary which helps you search for subject headings and specific words in the title, abstract, etc. Use the Thesaurus and subject terms listed to help you narrow your search and use the words specific to the database.

Google has algorithms for its search results.


And, Or, and Not (Boolean Operators)

Google and most search engines combine your keywords without you putting in the AND between them. It will find sites that include both.

Example: cancer and children

If you add OR to a search you will get way more results because the search engine will look for all sites that have each of those terms.

Example: cancer not children

NOT is term that allows you to leave out terms. You can also use a minus sign. The minus sign must follow a space.

Example: cancer not children

Example: nursing - children