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Aviation: Searching Tips and Tricks

Getting Ready to do Research

This page is intended to give you some hints to help you put together a search for various databases. The search strategies in it are just the beginning of creating a sophisticated search for information. For more information, check out the full Search Strategies Guide linked in the Quick Links box.

Generating Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases that describe your research topic. They are used to search for information in the catalog or in databases. When searching for information, you want to employ a variety of search terms because there are multiple ways of describing the same topic.

Start with a question that summarizes and focuses your research topic and identify key concepts associated with the question. Then, generate a list of synonyms and related terms. 

Example: "How can airports provide protection from drones entering their airspace?"

Identify synonyms for key concepts.

Drones   Airports   Protection     
UAV airfield laws
unmanned aerial vehicle     airstrip prevent
  runway investigation     
  landing strip      


Identify related concepts: protected air space; FAA; law enforcement.


Most databases add the Boolean operator AND between each word you type. In order to search for a phrase, put quotation marks around it.

"unmanned aerial vehicle" = phrase

unmanned aerial vehicle = unmanned aerial vehicle or vehicle aerial unmanned or aerial unmanned vehicle, etc.


Using a truncation symbol allows you to search for alternative word endings.

For example, airp* searches airport, airports, airplane, and airplanes at the same time.

The truncation symbol is often the asterisk. However, some databases use other symbols. Use the help option in the database or ask a librarian to check on which symbol to use.


Using a wildcard symbol allows you to search for alternative spellings within a word.

Wildcards can replace one character.  For example, wom?n searches women and woman.

A different symbol may be used to replace more than one letter or to accommodate spellings where a character may or may not be present. For example, colo#r searches color or colour.

ESCOhost databases use the wildcard symbols above. Other databases may use different symbols. Use the help option in the database or ask a librarian to check on which symbol to use.

Books - Info

You can look for books in the two search boxes below. The catalog search box searches Briggs Library's catalog for those books that we own. The WorldCat search box searches thousands of libraries around the world.

Tips for searching for books

  • Encyclopedias give good background information on a topic
  • You are not likely to be writing a book yourself at this stage of your education so if you find a whole book on your topic you need to narrow your topic
    • Look at the chapters of the book on your topic for ways to narrow your topic down
  • Many books have their tables of contents in the record in the catalog so you may find books with a chapter on your topic
  • Many books do not have their tables of contents in the record so you might have to think of broader subjects that your topic might be found in
  • We can get books from other libraries but only if you do your research ahead of time
    • This is called Interlibrary Loan and is described in the box to the right
    • Books from other libraries can take a week or more to arive at Briggs Library

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators or connectors are tools that allow you to narrow or broaden your search.

Using AND between your search terms will narrow your search.  For example, searching airport AND drone will find resources with both terms, giving you more specific results. You can keep adding terms with AND to conduct more narrow searches: airport AND drone AND laws AND safety.

Using OR between your search terms will broaden your search.  The OR operator is useful when a term has a frequently used synonym. Examples: drone OR UAV; UAV OR "unmanned aerial vehicle". Conducting a search using the OR operator will find resources with either term, giving more results.

Using NOT between your search terms will narrow your search. NOT allows you to exclude a word or phrase from your search. For example, drones NOT military will find resources on drones but exclude information about drones that include the word military.

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