Searching tips

When searching for information using LibrarySearch, the online databases, or on the web, you will need to start by identifying the search terms or "keywords" that you could use. Think of a few keywords and concepts rather than typing whole sentences. You can then consider variations of these keywords and think about how best to construct your search to find the most relevant resources using the following techniques:

1. Identify alternative keyword

  • related keywords (different words that mean the same thing).
  • different spellings e.g. paediatric / pediatric.
  • narrower keywords (to find more specific information) e.g. football rather than sport.
  • broader keywords (to find more general information) e.g. complementary therapies rather than acupuncture .

2. Truncation and wildcards

In a number of databases you can use symbols at the end of words (truncation symbols) to search for different word endings. Different databases can use different symbols, but using the symbol * (star/asterisk) is most commonly used, e.g. child* would find the words child and children.

You can also use symbols within words (wildcards) to cover different spellings of the word e.g. organi*ation would find both organisation and organization.


3. Phrase searching

This is a useful way of ensuring the database looks for words where they occur together. Sometimes you can select a phrase-search option in a database, or you can add quotation marks to your search terms: e.g. "higher education"

4. Punctuation

In LibrarySearch, it is best to omit hyphens and other punctuation. Wildcards can still be used. 


5. Boolean operators

Search keywords can be combined using the terms AND , OR and NOT which are known as "Boolean operators"

  • AND - if you use the word AND between your search keywords you will find articles that contain both words. It is a useful tool for making your results more specific: e.g. poverty AND crime Note: when searching many databases the word AND is assumed anyway between search terms, so you do not need to type this.
  • OR - if you use the word OR between your search keywords you will find results that contain either word: e.g. cats OR dogs .
  • You may also be able to select a search option that says "any of these words"
  • NOT The word NOT is used to exclude unwanted results and could be used to differentiate between two unrelated uses of the same keyword, or to refine your search: e.g. media NOT television

6. Advanced search options

If the database that you are searching has an "Advanced Search" option then investigate using this. It can often help you to be more precise in your search and may include a selection of limits that you can apply. The Advanced Search option in LibrarySearch enables you to determine where you want your search terms to appear, e.g. just in the title of a resource, and to specify a publication date or date range, and type of material.

You should evaluate the results that you find and be prepared to repeat your search using different combinations of keywords and trying different search strategies. You can always check the help pages of the database you are searching for further searching tips.


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Last edited: 24/02/2020 16:42:00