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Research Skills: Search Strategies

Information to help students find, write, evaluate and reference information for their assignments.

Introduction

Improving your search techniques can help you search for information more effectively. Different search engines will all operate in their own way - if you want to learn more about a particular search engine, try looking under 'search tips' or 'help' on the main screen. We have also provided specific information for Discovery (our library catalogue) and Google later in this guide.

Tips for common features of search engines are also found below.

AND, OR and NOT

Most search engines allow you to improve the accuracy of your search, or increase the number of results using AND, OR and NOT in your search. Also known as Boolean operators, they work as follows:

To narrow your search (e.g. get fewer results)

1. Enter AND between search terms to return only those results that include both those terms

2. Enter NOT between search terms to return results that have the first term but not the second  

For example- Windows NOT Microsoft.

To broaden your search (e.g. get more results)

Entering OR between search terms will include results that have either of terms in them.

For example -  bicycle OR bike

Phrase searching

Phrase searching helps narrow your search by looking for words only where they appear in that exact order. This is particularly useful when searching using names of people or organisations - for example: "World Health Organisation" Note that phrase searches only return results that use exactly the same spelling - e.g. results for  "World Health Organization" would not be included in the previous example.

Generally, quotations marks are used for phrase searching. 

 

Truncation

Truncation allows you to broaden your search, by entering part of a search term, and then using a truncation symbol to search multiple endings.

For example, in the library Discovery catalogue, entering teach* would search for teach, teaches, teaching, teacher and teachers  at the same time.

Common truncation symbols are * or ?, but you will need to check the search tool you are using to know which to use.

 

Next

Click to move to Discovery (catalogue) search

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