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GER401 Research Skills Guide: Find

Common Search Tips

There are a number of techniques you can use while searching to get better and more relevant results.

Basic and advanced search

Basic search usually involves one search box, with a few options about searching a specific collection or field. This is great for general searching. When you have multiple keywords or complex search queries, using Advanced search can be helpful. This usually involves several different boxes for your different keywords, built-in search operators, and more options for field searching and limiters.

Most databases will have a link to Advanced Search next to their Basic search option. Advanced Search in Google Scholar is accessible from the menu.

Search operators

Use these with your keywords to refine your searches and specify exactly what you want to find. These are most useful in journal databases and Primo Search. (Some of them won't work as well in Google Scholar.)

Search Operator Example
Use AND to retrieve results that contain both of your search terms. aged AND Indigenous
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. aged OR senior
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. "aged care" NOT jobs
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (aged OR senior) AND Indigenous
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "older person"
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. gerontolog* = gerontology, gerontologist, gerontological
A question mark can be used to replace a single letter within a word. analy?e = analyse, analyze

Field searching and limiters

Most databases will allow you to specify which field you want to search. Common fields include author, title, dates, and subject headings/topic, and these are usually available in both basic and advanced search. 

Once you've searched, you can also limit your results by some of these fields. This is extremely useful if you want all of your articles to have been published within a certain date range, or for them all to be peer-reviewed. Look for these in the menus beside your search results. 

COMMONLY USED SOURCES

There are many different types of resources which might offer information on the topic you are researching, but you need to consider whether the source is scholarly or authoritative enough for an academic assignment. (If in doubt, check with your lecturer.)

Source type*: Use this source to:
Book
  • Get an overview, introduction, and/or background on a topic
  • Get in-depth information about a broad topic
Journal article   
  • Access the latest research and ideas on your topic
  • Learn about varied perspectives on a topic
  • Examine a topic in very specific detail
Newspaper
  • Get the latest current affairs and business information
  • Investigate public attitudes to topics and issues
Website   
  • Locate reports and documents from government, academic, or professional organisations
  • Find background or introductory information
  • Familiarise yourself with the topic

Reference material

(dictionaries, encyclopaedias)

  • Find factual and statistical information on a topic
  • Get an overview of a subject
  • Find definitions
  • Use subject specific resources to decipher the "jargon" of your topic

*Source type includes both hard copy and online versions of the source (for example, books includes both hard copy books and ebooks

The following pages will introduce you to three common search tools to help you find resources for your assignments.

Sources of Information

journal articles & library databases

ONLINE LIBRARY WORKSHOPS

Online Library Workshops (OLWs) are offered at various times throughout the year. The OLWs are conducted online in real-time, and you can attend from the comfort of your home or favourite study space. For more information and registration details, head to the Library's OLW page.