Searching strategies

To research effectively you need to develop skills in analysing the assessment question, identifying keywords and related synonyms as well as creating a workable search string for the library catalogue and databases.

Learning outcomes

This topic will guide you through the research process and help you understand:

  • how to maximise search results for assessment tasks
  • how to use keywords and synonyms within your search strategy
  • what are Boolean operators and how to use them
  • what is truncation, phrase searching and wildcards
  • how to create a search string using keywords, synonyms, Boolean operators, truncation, phrase searching and wildcards

Introduction

To research effectively you need to develop skills in analysing the assessment question, identifying keywords and related synonyms as well as creating a workable search string for the library catalogue and databases.

As a starting point, look to your unit materials for information relevant to your assessment task. Remember that each assessment is testing your understanding of and ability to apply the concepts and key information from your unit content to address your task criteria. For this reason, it is important to start by ensuring you clearly understand these concepts as they are presented in your unit. Learn more about how to analyse your assessment tasks and how to define and use concepts in your writing.

This topic will go through the different tips and rules that you will need to follow to ensure you are maximizing your search results for assessment tasks.

The Research process

Keywords and synonyms

Identifying keywords and related synonyms (similar words) for each of your concepts or themes will ensure that your search retrieves as many relevant results as possible.

  • identify the main concepts (keywords)
  • determine alternative terms (synonyms) to capture how others might describe the same concept
  • consider possible word variations

Example: Alternative keywords and synonyms for Education

Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) connecting words

Boolean Operators connect keywords and synonyms together to create a search string. We can refer to these as our ‘connecting’ words. We write them in capitals to ensure the catalogue or database does not mistake them for keywords and searches for them.

Other search tips

Test your searching knowledge with this tutorial
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