These strategies apply to almost any database (or search engine), from Google to Biological Abstracts. Use a Concept Map to think about your research question before you start the actual searching (see right).
Databases, including Google, use Boolean Logic to combine search terms. (Google assumes an "AND" between search terms). Boolean operators allow you to combine synonyms and concepts and eliminate different meanings of words.
The Boolean Operators are AND, OR, NOT
Truncation allows you to use a word stem to search for strings of various characters.
Parentheses ( ) let you combine synonyms to search for a group of them at once. It's like a math problem, where you do what's in parentheses first! Here's where you can get really wordy with your search. So....
(canines or dogs or canis) AND (ecology or habitat)