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ATHS 167M Who Owns the Past? Archaeology, Museums and Politics in the 21st Century

Crafting an Expert Search

Being thoughtful and strategic about your search can save you time and frustration and yield more relevant results.

This series of quick activities will help you craft an "expert" search for your topic. If you have any questions, please remember to reach out to your librarian – Lara Nicosia ( – she is always happy to help!

Identifying Search Concepts

Typically we start our research with a broad idea or topic that can turn into a focused research question. While asking a strong research question is an essential part of any successful project, the question (or questions) itself should not be used as your search. Instead, you want to narrow your search down to three or four search concepts.

How could you describe your topic to someone in 3-4 words or phrases? What are the major ideas that you are trying to explore in your research? These are your major search concepts.

Test Yourself

Structuring Your Search

Once you have identified your major search concepts, you need to identify a list of "related terms" for each of the concepts. By incorporating related terms into your search, you give the database other options of words to find and therefore end up with more results.

Related terms are typically grouped in parentheses and combined using the word OR. This tells the database that you are looking for results that use any one of your terms, but not necessarily all of the terms.

Example: (museums OR galleries OR "historic sites")

Each set of related terms is then combined using the word AND (in between each set of parentheses). This explains to the database that you are looking for results that use at least one of your terms from each set.

Example: (museums OR galleries OR "historic sites") AND ("Native American" OR "American Indian") AND (art OR artifacts OR exhibit)

Test Yourself

Test Yourself

Build Your Own Expert Search

Test Yourself