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HCS204 Research Skills Guide: Primo Search

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.

Primo Search and 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 Primo Search and journal databases. (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. quantitative AND survey
qualitative AND interview
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. "young adult" OR teenager OR youth
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. education NOT tertiary
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (homeless OR houseless) AND elderly
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "domestic violence"
Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. manag* = manage, managed, managing, management
A question mark can be used to replace a single letter within a word. wom*n = woman, women

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. 

Search in Primo Search

Try to keep your searches simple when using Primo Search. Below are some example searches you can try.

  • "research method" AND "social work"
    Using inverted commas (" ") around phrases forces Primo Search to look for the enclosed words together. The capitalised AND asks Primo Search to look for resources that contain both the phrase research method and the phrase social work.
  • qualitative research method
    Try typing the above keywords into Primo Search both with inverted commas and without inverted commas and see how it affects your search results. Replace the word qualitative with the word quantitative.

Don't forget you can use the limiters on the left side of the page to refine your search results. 

Can you think of any other combinations to try? Give them a go and see what sort of results you get. If you like, you can share your searches with your peers on the HCS204 discussion board in your Interact site.

Tip: Take a look at the Library's Primo Search Help guide for more useful tips about searching effectively in Primo Search.

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