First, organize your research topic into concepts. Concepts are typically nouns or noun phrases.
Using a databases's Advanced Search, enter each concept and its synonyms into a separate search line.
Use quotation marks around phrases, these are typically noun phrases that you would find a definition of in a dictionary.
Use * for truncation.
Limit to peer-reviewed articles if necessary.
Limit by date if necessary.
Too many or too few results?
Find an article that looks interesting?
Spelling: Spelling counts. If you spell a word incorrectly, you will only bring up other incorrectly spelled words. If there are multiple spellings of a term, use all of them.
Help Screens and Tutorials: Learn to read and use help screens - they are the keys to being able to search effectively.
Capitalization: Use lowercase to match words in either upper or lowercase. For exact matches (usually in the case of proper names, like New York), use uppercase.
Evaluate: Know your sources for information. Who is the author or the organization represented? Be critical and double check information.