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Three tips for better searches

Photo of coffee and appleWhen searching the library databases or on the internet, it is usually fine to use the words that quickly come to mind. However, sometimes, for example when you are writing an essay or a major work, you may need to spend a little more time and effort on your search. Here are some tips to help you:

1. Take a little time to think about your search terms

Think of synonyms, draw a mind map, look up translations. You can also use this worksheet to identify and develope keywords/search terms that match your research question.

Developing Keywords

From University of Houston Libraries

2. Are you finding too much?

  • Use quotation marks (“”) around your search terms if searching for a name or phrase, then you will avoid results where the words are not together.
    For example: “Anthony Giddens” or “sustainable development”
  • Combine your search terms with AND if you want fewer hits. 
    For example, gender roles AND working life
  • You can remove unnecessary items using NOT.
    For example, jaguar NOT cars
  • If you search for scholarly texts- limit your search to Peer reviewed or Scholarly Journals (there is often a box to tick).

Searching Using Keywords

 from From University of Houston Libraries

3. Are you finding too little?

  • Add an asterisk * at the end of a word to search for different variations of the word (Truncation). For example, if you search using educat*, you will get hits for educator, educated, education etc.
    Sometimes, you use other characters, such as ? to truncate. Check the search help provided for each database or search engine to find out which character the relevant database uses.
  • Sometimes, it may be a good idea to broaden your search using OR. This yields results with both words present and when only one is present.
    For example, education OR school.
Last updated by Jenny Magnusson