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Diversity and the Media: Library & Internet Resources: Search Strategy

paper dolls made of newspaper in white female black male and univeral image for persons with disabilities


Since the definition of culture varies, the following information is based on its broadest definition to reflect the diversity of the people residing in the United States. The Library of Congress, which sets subject heading standards or "authorities" for many of our library databases and our catalog, as well as the U.S. Census Bureau, which sets standards for the statistical classification of race ethnicity, and  ancestry, strongly influence the terminology used to describe groups in databases and publications. Furthermore, this terminology changes over time to reflect current usage.

Disclaimer: The following search tips and terms are suggestions in the context of efficient searching and are are not meant to be definitive or authoritative, and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or attitudes of the author of this web site. Keep in mind the denotative and connotative uses of these terms may directly influence your search results.

Diversity Keywords & Search Strategies

The use of the asterisk (*) is a "wildcard" that most databases use to search a root word and variable endings in order to be more efficient, such as automatically including singular and plural, other forms of a word. Use quotation marks around phrases so they are searched as phrases.

  • For example: "chican*" will retrieve "chicana," "chicanas," "chicano," "chicanos," etc.

The use of the word "or" in between synonyms or related words broadens search results by including either term in the search results. For example:

  • chican* or latin* or hispanic* or "mexican american*"

When searching historical resources consider how usage changes over time. For example:

  • negro* or "afro american*" or black* or "african american*"

The use of the word "and" between keywords narrows search results by requiring that both terms must appear in the search results. For example:

  • deaf* and los angeles

Use parentheses or enter groups of terms in separate search boxes within the databases when you combine "or" and "and" searches. For example:

  • (muslim* or islam*) and (women or female*)

Media Coverage Keywords 

The following search terms can be entered along with subject specific keywords to get articles on this concept:

  • (cover* or image* or portray* or stereotyp* or represent* or depict* or bias*)
    • Example: (gay* or lesbian* or homosexual* or queer or lgbt) and (cover* or image* or portray* or stereotyp* or represent* or depict*)
  • (media or news* or press or journalis* or reporter* or reporting)
    • Example: "asian american*" and women and (media or news* or press or journalis* or reporter* or reporting)

Developing a Search Strategy

  1. Once you have chosen a topic, write it down in the form of a question or brief statement:
    What is the relationship between SAT scores and college success?
  2. Underline the key words and phrases that are most specific to your topic.
    What is the relationship between SAT scores and college success?
  3. Write down each key word or phrase, and underneath it, list synonyms or related terms.
    Use a dictionary or thesaurus to find additional keywords. For example:


    • scholastic aptitude test


    • university


    • achievement
  4. Think about the singular, plural, and other endings of words and write down the root of the word.
    • SAT
    • scholastic aptitude test
    • college, colleges -- college
    • university, universities -- universit
    • success, successful, succeed -- succe
    • achievement, achieve, achiever -- achieve
  5. Write down your key words and phrases along with their synonyms in the form of a Boolean search statement. Use the root word, and truncate it with an asterisk (*). Note: Different databases use different truncation or wildcard symbols. Check the database's help page. For example:

    (SAT or scholastic aptitude test) and (college* or universit*) and (sucee* or achieve*)

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand (or) or narrow (and, not) a search within a database to locate relevant information. Boolean operators are also called logical operators or connectors.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

Or Relationship diagram

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain any of the search terms. It expands the search. Therefore, use "or" in between terms that have the same meaning (synonyms) or equal value to the search.

And Relationship diagram

women and media

And retrieves records that contain all of the search terms. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "and" in between terms that are required to make the search specific.

Not Relationship diagram

image not weight

Not eliminates records that contain a search term. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. Warning: Some databases use "and not" instead of "not." Check the database help screen.


  • Most databases allow for a symbol to be used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. This is known as truncation.
  • Using truncation will broaden your search. For example,

    bank* will retrieve: bank or banks or banking or banker or bankruptcy, etc.

  • Databases and Internet search engines use different symbols to truncate. In general, most of the Library's databases use the asterisk (*) ; however, the exclamation point (!) is used in LexisNexis. Check the database help screen to find the correct truncation symbol.
  • Be careful using truncation. Truncating after too few letters will retrieve terms that are not relevant. For example:

    cat* will also retrieve cataclysm, catacomb, catalepsy, catalog, etc.

    It's best to use the boolean operator "or" in these instances (cat or cats).