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Literature Review Challenge

Welcome to Day 4 of the Literature Review Challenge!

Today we will look at strategies to connect your search terms! Using these methods will help you become more proficient at using the library databases:


  • Learn about combining searches with AND / OR / NOT
  • Use AND or NOT to combine different search terms to narrow your results
  • Use OR to combine different search terms to expand your result
  • Searching is often nonlinear and iterative


Library databases use important operators to connect search terms.

These important words affect the results that your search yields. 

  • They connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your set of results.
  • The three basic operators are: ANDOR, and NOT.


  • narrows your results
  • finds the overlap of the topics you search
  • instructs the database that ALL search terms must be present in your set of results
  • example: housing AND harm reduction AND Overdose 


  • expands your results
  • connects two or more similar concepts (synonyms)

  • instructs the database that ANY of your search terms can be present in your set of results

  • example: counsellors OR psychologists OR therapists


  • narrows your results
  • excludes words from your search
  • instructs the database to ignore concepts
  • useful if a concept is implied by your search terms and you do not want to include it
  • example: spirituality NOT religion 


Video on Combining Terms

pointing finger
Watch this video by Zach Sharrow to learn more about combining  terms by using AND, OR or NOT 

Then complete the Day 4 ACTIVITY
**Note: Refer to the videos below which illustrate using combining terms in two different library databases, APA PsycInfo and Academic Search Complete.

Combine searches in APA PsycInfo

Searches within OVID do not automatically combine. To do so, select the search terms you would like to combine by selecting the box next to it in the Search History area at the top of page. Then combine with “AND” or “OR”. Results of the combined search will automatically display under the Search area.

For a review of how to effectively use And/Or, visit the help guide below:

Use Search History to combine searches in Academic Search Complete

Click "Search History" to view your recent searches in order to combine previous searches. This will only work within one sitting. This does not show past searches from days/weeks/months ago unless you have saved them.

Click Search History under the search boxes

Using AND / OR in a Database Search - APA PsycInfo

This video takes you through the process of starting with a Venn diagram to using APA PsycInfo. It shows how difficult it is to search with keywords for having to think of all possible synonyms, but then later also shows how to do an easier, effective subject heading search.

Using AND / OR in a Database Search - Ebscohost

Day 4 Activity

POINTING FINGERRefer back to your Venn Diagram from Day 2

Choose a library database and connect the keywords and subject headings you found in Day 3 using AND / OR.

Try a few different configurations of search words to narrow/expand your results by combining these terms effectively.
Notice which yielded better and more relevant results.