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PSY203/PSY453 Research Skills Guide: Search strategies

Common Search Tips

These search tips can help you to find more relevant results in Primo Search and many other library databases. If these tips don't work in the database you are using check their help section for their set of symbols.

Search Operator Example
Use AND to retrieve results that contain both of your search terms. Aboriginal AND identity
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. Aboriginal OR Indigenous
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results.  government NOT state
Combine terms with parentheses to create complex searches. (Aboriginal OR Indigenous ) AND identity
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "social identity"
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. cultur* = culture, cultural
A question mark can be used to replace a single letter within a word. analy?e = analyze, analyse


Proximity Searching

In some databases, you can use a proximity operator to specify that your search terms must be close to – that is, within a certain number of words of – each other. This is broader than a phrase-search, and narrower than a keyword search.

The proximity operator is usually a letter or word, followed by a number. You can specify the number, and it will determine the number of words between your two search terms. The higher the number, the more results you will get, and the less relevant they might be.

In the EBSCOhost database the following search string "community benefits" N6 psychology will find the phrase community benefits within 6 words of psychology.

Proximity operators in the major database platforms:

  • EBSCOhost          Nn
  • ProQuest             NEAR/n
  • Informit               %         [and you must have All terms selected]
  • Ovid                    ADJn

where n is the number you nominate.