Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

PSY540 Research Guide: Advanced searching techniques

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. psychology AND community
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. counselling OR counseling
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. psychology NOT psychiatry
Combine terms with parentheses to create complex searches. (psychology OR counselling) AND community benefits
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "positive psychology"
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. psycho* = psychology, psychological, psychotherapy
A question mark can be used to replace a single letter within a word. analy?e = analyze, analyse

Thesaurus/Subject Headings

Journal databases use a controlled vocabulary when indexing article records to enable information to be grouped by topic.

By controlling the vocabulary, the database ensures that synonyms and similar phrases are collected under one accepted term.

You can search using a database's vocabulary. When you are in a database there will usually be a hyperlink near the search boxes called thesaurus, subjects, or subject headings

Field Searching

Records in library databases are comprised of fields containing specific pieces of bibliographic information. Common fields include:

  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor
  • Limiting your search to specific fields can yield more precise results.

 

Searching within the abstract fields (AB) can be particularly helpful. This is because abstracts, as summaries of articles, are very keyword-rich: If you get a 'hit' on a keyword in an abstract you will usually find the article is relevant. The abstract is also a good source to find additional keywords you can use in your search strategies.

Using Facets

Most databases also allow you to limit your search or refine your results set by facets. Common facets include:

  • date
  • language
  • subject area
  • geographical area
  • material type (eg. Review articles, which will provide an overview of research on a particular topic)
  • journal title

In many cases, you can also limit a search to scholarly or peer reviewed articles. The options will depend on the database you are searching.

Thesaurus searching in EBSCOhost

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

Saving searches and creating alerts

Most databases provide the option to save your searches and set up alerts to help you keep up to date with the latest research. To do this you will need to create an account within a database which is separate from your Charles Sturt University login.

  • A search alert will be sent to you after you have saved a database search that you run periodically.
  • A table of contents (ToC) alert will allow you to receive the table of contents lists for selected recent journal issues.

To find out how to set this up within different databases see the Library's Keep up to date with the literature.