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ACC585 Research Skills Guide: Use Advanced Search techniques

Advanced Search Techniques

  • Operators are special words that determine how your search terms are combined in the search.
  • They are sometimes called BOOLEAN operators.
  • You should always type in your search operators in capital letters.
  • The 2 main search operators are AND and OR.
Using the AND operator 
  • If you add extra search terms, and combine them with AND, you will get only results that contain both or all of the terms.
  • This is a way of making your search more specific (narrower), and getting fewer results

Example:

Knowledge management AND big business

Using the OR operator
  • If you add extra search terms, and combine them with OR, you will get results that contain one or other (or both) of your search terms.
  • This is a way of making your search less specific (broader), and getting more results.

Example:

business OR enterprise

Truncation is used to search for terms with different word-endings.

This is another way of making your search broader, and getting more results.

In Primo Search, and in most databases, the truncation symbol is the asterisk ( * ).

Example:
manag* will search for the words manage, manager, managing, management, etc.
account* will search for the words accounts, accounting, accountant, etc.

It's helpful to know if the online resource you are searching defaults to keyword-searching or phrase-searching.

Phrase-searching is more specific, and gets fewer results; keyword-searching is broader, and get more results.

Primo Search (like Google) defaults to keyword-searching.

Example: If you type in knowledge management you will get results for knowledge AND management. If you wish to search for the phrase <knowledge management>, you need to type in "knowledge management".

  • Some databases, eg EBSCOhost databases, default to phrase-searching.

Example: If you type in knowledge management , you will get the phrase <knowledge management>. If you wish to search for the keywords knowledge and management, you need to type in knowledge AND management.

Database records consist of fields that contain specific pieces of bibliographic information.

Common fields include:

  • Author(s)
  • Article title
  • Journal title
  • Date/year of publication
  • Subject headings
  • Abstract (summary).

To find the various fields in which you can search, look for drop-down boxes or menus. Here's the EBSCOhost Advanced Search screen.

You can combine search terms, search operators, and field searching to build quite complex searches, and get precise results:

Search limiters are another important way to narrow a search, and most databases offer a range of limiters that you can use as part of your search, or that you can apply after you have your results. In the latter case, they are usually called refiners, because they refine your results.

To find limiters to add to your search, look for tick-boxes and drop-down menus on the main search page. To find refiners to refine your results, look for lists to the left or right of your results list:

A proximity search forces a database to find results where one search term appears within a certain number of words of another search term. The proximity operator varies according to the database.

Examples from an EBSCOhost database:  

business N3 competitive advantage  (N=near)This will find results where business is within 3 words of competitive advantage in any order

business W3 competitive advantage (W=within) This will find results where business is within 3 words of competitive advantage in the order in which you entered the search terms

Using google effectively