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HCS519 Research Skills Guide: 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.

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. police AND federal
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. politics OR government
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. education NOT tertiary
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (tertiary OR university) AND education
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "lung cancer"
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. analy?e = analyse, analyze

Finding your articles

You have been tasked with finding two journal articles. While Primo Search and Google Scholar are useful search tools, in this case our best option is to search within Charles Sturt University Library's journal databases. Not only do journal databases specialise in journals, but they are often discipline specific too, which means the information they contain may be more relevant to your assignment.

You'll find strategies and tips for database searching on the next page.

Get better search results

Field Searching and limiters

Most databases will allow you to specify which field you want to search. 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 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.

Once you've searched, you can also limit your results by some of these fields. This will be extremely useful as you have been asked to find articles published within a specific date range.