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ASC321 Research Skills Guide: Plan your search

Where do I start?

For your second assessment, a literature review, you are required to produce a review of literature in relation to the common causes of poor performance in a discipline of your choice.  The discipline will be chosen via interact and can be the same as assessment 1.

Once you decide on a discipline, you can start to consider what keywords you will use to search the library journal databases. Break down the assessment question by doing a topic analysis.

A topic analysis will help you to clarify and understand what your assessment question is asking you to do.

You will generally be given three key pieces of information:

  1. The key topic or concept words direct you in what to research.
  2. The limits or qualifiers tell you the specific focus of the topic or concept.
  3. The task or instruction terms tell how you are to deal with the content. Charles Sturt University has a list of explanations for common instruction words.

Common search tips

here 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. hoard and animal
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. dog or canine
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. canine NOT wolf
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (dog OR canine) AND hoarding
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "animal hoarding"
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. hoard* = hoarding, hoarder, , hoarded
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. 

Topic analysis

Boolean searching basics

The video was made by Kate Cushion, Liaison librarian for the University of Regina. For CSU students if you require further help please contact CSU information librarians.

Charles Sturt University acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which its campuses are located, paying respect to Elders, both past and present, and extend that respect to all First Nations Peoples.