Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Speech Pathology & Audiology

Resources in Speech Pathology & Audiology at Ball State University Libraries.

Looking for ways to more your searching game up a notch?

magnifying glass

Looking for ways to move your searching game up a notch?  Read on!

Searching Strategically with the CHOP, DROP, and OR method

To search like a pro, use the CHOP, DROP, and OR technique.  This works in essentially every library database.

CHOP your topic into the different concepts involved.

  • Sample topic: issues related to how cochlear implants affect the users' working memory and development of language
  • Concepts: cochlear implants, working memory, language development

DROP each concept into a separate search box on an Advanced Search screen.

Then think of whether there are different spellings, synonyms, or related words for each concept and type them in (if there are), using OR between them.

  • "working memory" OR "short term memory"
  • "language development" OR "language acquisition"

Here's how those terms might be put into an Advanced Search form in OneSearch.

Advanced search screen with three search boxes.  One has "cochlear implants".  Another has "working memory" OR "short term memory".  The last has "language development" OR "language aquisition"

Then, of course, you want to evaluate your results.

  • When you see a good title, that seems on-target topic-wise, read through and note if it uses different terms you could incorporate into your search.
  • You may find research that leads you in a new direction with your research.  Follow it!
  • Remember that library research like this can take time.  Be patient and be willing to scroll down through your list.

Consider search terms for your topic

The words you use as your search terms have a big effect on the relevance of the results that you get.  So choose carefully!

  • Start with terms used in the topic description.
  • Then think of other ways you can describe that topic such as: 
    • direct synonyms (ex. teenagers, adolescents)
    • related terms (ex. dysphasia, swallowing disorders)
    • broader or more specific terms (ex. stuttering, speech disorders)
  • It may be helpful to consult:
    • a thesaurus,
    • class readings,
    • titles or description of articles you find in a database that look promising.

Focus on the Subjects field

Unlike Google and OneSearch, library research databases like CINAHL and MEDLINE assign subject headings to each record, indicating the focus of the article.

When you're trying to come up with good terms to search on, THIS is the place to look!

Pro tip: Use quotes

When searching in a database, put quotation marks around phrases of two or more words where it's important to keep the words together.  Then your words will be searched as a unit.

So, when searching on a topic this can be important:

  • "statistical significance"
  • "hearing loss"
  • "apraxia of speech"

It's also helpful when searching for a title -- of a governmental act, an organization, an article, etc.

  • "early hearing detection and intervention"
  • "the asha leader"
  • "optimising recovery in aphasia: learning following exposure to a single dose of computer-based script training"

Too many results?

What if I find a ton using these techniques?

  • Narrow your list by using terms that show up in the Descriptor/Subject heading field, AND changing the drop-down menu to say “Descriptors” or “Subjects” (depending on the database you’re using).   That tells the database to only retrieve articles where my terms show up in the subject field, and (therefore) are the focus of the article.
  • Remove some of the OR terms which are not your favorites.
  • Consider removing an entire set of terms.

Too few results?

What if I need to find more articles?

  • Look for more possibilities by mining the list of references at the end of an article that has been helpful (Just take an article title and plug it into OneSearch with quotes around the title to see if we have access to it.)
  • See if anyone has cited an article you like by using Web of Science and searching on your article title (in quotes! Of course).  Then click on “Times Cited” to see records for articles which cited yours.
  • Add some more synonyms or related terms with OR.