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Forensic Science & Crime Scene Investigation

Searching Strategies

Using advanced searches in library databases can save you time and yield better results. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to do this. These can be used for narrowing, expanding, and refining your searches.


AND is used to narrow a search and tells the database to search for sources that have both words.

  • forensic AND evidence

The illustration on the right shows in blue where forensic and evidence overlap. If you use AND in your search, you will only see sources that would fall inside the overlap.

"Quotation Marks"

Using quotation marks—also called phrase searching—tells the database to search for everything in the quotation marks exactly as it is written. Quotation marks can be helpful for narrowing a search to a phrase rather than searching for the individual words scattered throughout the source. It can also be used for finding articles by their titles. Simply put the title in quotation marks and search.

  • “United States” AND “forensic science” AND "crime scene investigation"


OR is useful when searching for synonyms. It tells the database to look for at least one of the words you typed in. 

  • “United States of America” OR “United States” OR USA

The illustration on the right shows all the circles in blue because all search results that have at least one of those words would show up in your results.


OR is often paired with parentheses so that you can use multiple searching tools in the same search. OR on its own can often bring back too many results, so the parentheses help keep the database from bringing up off-topic resources. Using OR along with parentheses allows you to use other search terms to narrow the search.

  • (gun OR pistol OR rifle OR firearm) AND ballistics


If you are finding many irrelevant results, NOT can be used to exclude a word from your search. For example, if you are researching guns and getting too many articles about bb-guns, you can exclude by typing NOT bb.

  • gun NOT bb-gun

In the illustration on the right, the gun circle has a piece missing because OR tells the database to remove sources that also mention bb-gun from your results. Search results would only show sources that have the word gun, but not the word bb-gun.

Truncation & Wildcards

Truncating using an asterisk is also a good way to search by looking for different endings of words. It saves you from having to search for multiple variations of a word. For example, child* will return child, children, childhood, childish, etc. Just be careful not to bring it in too far. For example, chi* would bring up every word in the dictionary that started with chi.

A wildcard can be used to replace a single character in a word and is represented by a question mark. Some databases use a different character. Wom?n will search for both the plural and singular form of this word: women and woman.

  • ("crime scene" OR "scene of the crime" OR "crime site") AND kill* AND m?n

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