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Food Science

Resources for Penn State students, faculty and staff emphasizing food microbiology, food chemistry, food engineering, food choice and consumer behavior

Strategy Tips

Combine terms properly (Boolean searching):Venn Diagrams for boolean logic of AND, OR and NOT

After brainstorming your keywords and synonyms, you need to combine those terms into search strings using the Boolean operators. 

  • OR broadens a search - either term will be present - use between synonyms within one concept
  • AND narrows a search - both terms must be present - use between concepts
  • NOT eliminates items - one term is not present - use with caution as it may eliminate relevant sources


Use parentheses around each concept (keywords linked with OR) to force the systems to search in the correct order.


(chocolate OR cacao OR cocoa) AND ("sensory analysis" OR "sensory properties" OR flavor OR flavour) AND ("consumer acceptability" OR "consumer behavior" OR "consumer choice")

Use advanced search features:

  • Truncation: in many databases you can use an asterisk (*) to retrieve items with various word endings and spellings. For example:  child*  will find child, children, or childish. Other frequently used truncation symbols include a question mark (?) or a dollar sign ($).
  • Phrase Searching: most databases require quotation marks around the phrase. A phrase search will then locate only records containing the words in the particular order in which they appear.   Example: "artificial intelligence" instead of: artificial intelligence.
  • Limiting: many databases have advanced limiting features relevant to the subject.  Check for limiting by year, publication type (e.g. research article or review article), gender, or age groups.

Search Strategy Builder

Steps for building your search strategy

  1. Write out your topic in the form of a research question.
  2. Identify the main concepts of your topic
  3. Brainstorm synonyms for each concept
Concepts and keywords
Instructions Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
Break the research question into concepts and put one concept in each box.

List alternatives for each concept.

These can be synonyms, or they can be specific examples of the concept.

Use single words or short phrases.

Find additional terms in abstracts and summaries of the articles, books, and other sources you find during initial searches.

Search terms Search terms Search terms










Search Strategy Builder was originally created by University of Arizona Libraries and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Next Steps

  1. Paste the above search statement into the database of your choice
  2. Scan the best items on the results list and look for new subject terms or keywords. Then revise your search using these new terms.
  3. Explore other databases and subject terms (which vary between databases) for more information.