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BIO 252 - Modeling Systems of Life

Effective Search Strategies

Learn 3 search strategies, Boolean (AND, OR), quotation marks, and the asterisk/truncation symbol.

Tips for searching Web of Science

Truncation symbols (wildcard characters)

  • Use "*" (asterisk) for zero or more characters.  
    • eg. gene* will retrieve gene, genes, genetics
  • Use "$" (dollar sign) for zero or one character.  Use for spelling variants. 
    • eg. behavi$r will retrieve behavior and behaviour
  • Use "?" (question mark) for one character only.  Use for variant spellings. 
    • eg. en?oblast will retrieve entoblast and endoblast


Use " " (quotes) when searching for a phrase

Use the "*" (asterisk) for name variants or use the author index.  Many publications use only the author's initial for their first name.

  • eg. Smith J* will retrieve Smith J as well as Smith John, Smith Jim, etc. 

Tips for analyzing your results

There are features in the Web of Science that can help you narrow and analyze your results.

  • Use facets such as date and publication type to either select or exclude records. (See quick reference card)
  • Use the analyze feature to find out the author(s) who have written the most papers on your topic, institution(s) where most research has been done, or see subject areas of the records in your results.

Citation Mining

Researchers in the sciences tend to research on the same or similar topic throughout their career.  Science builds on the science of others.  So, when you find a paper:

  • you can see the research that informed the paper in the references in the back of the paper (backwards citation searching)
  • you can find more current research that used this paper in their references (forward citation searching).

How to do forward citation searching:

  • Search for the title using the Web of Science database and click the "times cited" link.
  • Search for the title in Google Scholar and click the "cited by" link under the record.