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MGT501 Research Skills Guide: Search strategies

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. agile AND management
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. organisation OR corporation
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. social sustainability NOT environmental
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (organisation OR corporation) AND strategy
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "social sustainability"
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. manage* = manage, manager, managers, management, managing...
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. 

Want to see these strategies demonstrated?

If you're keen to see search strategies in action that are relevant to your MGT501 assessment tasks take a look at the recording on the Home page of this guide.

Get better search results

Activity

Try combining some of your keywords using some common search tips.

  • Do you have similar terms to link with OR?
  • Do you have any phrases?
  • Can you combine two different terms with an AND?

Proximity Searching

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:  

Aboriginal N3 mental health (N=near)This will find results where Aboriginal is within 3 words of mental health in any order

Aboriginal W3 mental health (W=within)This will find results where Aboriginal is within 3 words of mental health in the order in which you entered the search terms