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Search Tips: Search Tips

Focus Your Search

When your search is focused, your chances of finding relevant quality information increases and you will spend less time reading irrelevant material

Tips to searching library resources


Before you start searching for information, spend time analysing the question to identify keywords and subject words. Subject words or keywords are the main ideas or concepts in your topic you will use when searching the library resources.

Do not enter assignment question, very long phrases or sentences into the search area; you will not get accurate results. Pick out the words that indicate the main points of your topic.

Creating a list of keywords related to your research question will help you find the resources you need in an efficient and effective manner.

Adding more terms can narrow a broad search.


Most databases allow you to narrow your search results according to certain criteria. Limiting is a good way to narrow the results of a large search to a manageable number.

It is easy to limit your search results, they are normally found under Search Options, then Limit your results or you can get to it from the Advanced Search screen. Each database will look slightly different, and include different filtering options - common limiters (also called filters) include: Full-Text, Peer-Reviewed, Publication Date, Source Type.


Once you have identified some, even one, useful reference(s) these can be used as tools to help you identify other similar references.

Check the references cited and/or the bibliography to find other relevant titles on your subject.. Check the subject headings used to describe the subject content and rerun the search using these terms.

Search Tips

Searching image1. Define your topic and break it down into component concepts

2. Choose keywords, think of synonyms, abbreviations, alternative spelling

3. Combine keywords - using Boolean operators to structure the search

4. Use truncation to broaden your search

5. Use advanced techniques such as field searching and controlled vocabulary

6. Refine search results

7. Reflect on the results you find. Make sure they are relevant, look at subject terms

Don't limit yourself to one set of results or one database.

Search a database that covers many subjects (e.g., Academic Search Complete or ScienceDirect) as well as a subject-specialized database. The same search phrase input in two separate databases can bring up very different results. If your topic incorporates more than one major subject area, try searching two databases that cover both your individual topics - Try the same search across multiple databases.


Search Tips

Too Few OR Too Many Results

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