Here are different strategies to use in your catalog and database searches:
1. Boolean -- use the words AND, OR, and NOT between keywords to narrow or expand your search.
2. Basic vs. Advanced -- most databases have both options. Advanced searching usually offers more options for limiting your results (by date, document type, language, etc.). Typically, the advanced search screen has multiple search boxes for easier separation of key concepts (but you don't have to use more than one box).
3. Truncation -- A symbol at the end of a word stem provides for all variants on the word stem. Often, the symbol for truncation is an asterisk (*), but the symbol varies among databases. In GIL, the truncation symbol is the question mark (?).
For example, searching for urban* will retrieve: urban, urbanized, urbanism, and urbanization which will expand your results.
4. Wildcard -- A symbol within a word provides for all possible variants inside a word. In many databases, this symbol is an asterisk (*), but the symbol varies among databases. In GIL, the wildcard symbol is the question mark (?).
For example a search for wom*n will retrieve woman and women, which again will expand your results.
5. Proximity -- This is a feature that allows you to search for words near each other. This strategy is usually only available in databases where you are searching fulltext content. So, you can use proximity searching in JSTOR and the Historical New York Times, but you cannot use proximity searching in library catalogs, Historical Abstracts, or Academic Search Premier.
For example, in JSTOR, searching "masculinity imperialism"~10" finds articles with the words masculinity and imperialims within 10 words of each other.
You don't need to remember all the specialized searching characters. Use the HELP PAGES within each database to determine the correct symbols and available searching options.