Databases will often not understand your search if you enter it as a normal sentence, such as your full research question.
Instead, you'll want to brainstorm search terms that describe the concepts you are interested in to create a Search Strategy.
One method of developing your question into a set of concepts and terms that you can search is to use a concept map to help develop and focus your question and clarify your terms.
If you are asking a clinical question or conducting an evidence synthesis, try using the PICO structure or a similar model.
By connecting your search terms using Boolean Operators and Parentheses, you can tell the databases precisely how you want your search terms to be searched.
Boolean operators let you connect your alternative terms and concepts together.
Be sure to type your Boolean operators in ALL CAPS. That lets the database know you're giving it a command. Otherwise, it ignores common words like and, or and not.
When creating a more complicated or advanced search, you can use parentheses to group your keywords together and tell the database precisely how you want the terms searched. The database will perform the searches within parentheses before the searches outside of parentheses. This is similar to the way parentheses are used in math.
Use parentheses any time you have more than one keyword for a particular concept. In other words, when you are using the boolean operator OR, put parentheses around all of the OR'd terms.
digestive OR respiratory AND "harmful algal bloom*"
(digestive OR respiratory) AND "harmful algal bloom*"
Instead of typing parentheses around the alternative terms for your concepts, you can use Web of Science's Add Row button to:
What is Truncation?
Truncation is a tool that is available in many databases, including those on Web of Science. It allows you to easily search for all the different forms of a given root-word by adding the truncation symbol: * (asterisk)
For example, a search for pollut* retrieves pollution, pollutant, polluting, polluted, etc..
Things to Keep in Mind With Truncation
What is Phrase Searching?
If you are using a multi-word search term in your search, such as species diversity, you will want to think about how important it is that they stay together in order to still be relevant.
If you want the terms to stay together and in the order you put them into the search box, you can put them into quotation marks to search them as a phrase. "Species diversity" retrieves only articles that talk about species diversity as a concept, rather than mentioning the word species in one place and the word diversity in another.
Things to Keep in Mind With Phrase Searching