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NUT201 Research Skills Guide: Search Strategies

Library Information Literacy Task

Search Strategies

It is worth spending time learning how to search effectively so you can be confident you are retrieving the most relevant articles for your research area. On this page you will learn about the different techniques you can use to create more successful searches.

Before you search

Every search tool or database is different, so it is a good idea to check a search tool or database's help section to find out which search strategies are allowed and whether they are the same as shown on this page.

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators fine-tune your searches by using the operators 'AND', 'OR', and 'NOT' to combine keywords to broaden or narrow your search. You must always type these operators in capital letters.

  • AND is great for combining keywords
  • OR is great for searching for synonyms and similar terms
  • NOT, is used to exclude a concept. 


If you are using Primo Search or a Database:

You can achieve the same effect in Google and Google Scholar:

(the AND is assumed)

(you could also write it like this: dog | canine)

(the - works in the same way as a NOT)


Wildcard symbols enable you to substitute a symbol for one letter of a word. They are useful for words with multiple spellings, such as British versus American spellings.

The wildcard symbol is typically a question mark (?), inserted in place of the letter being substituted. Some databases use an asterisk (*), and if you are unsure you should check the help section.

If you are using Primo Search or a Database:

If you search for: You will get results for:
organi?ation organisation, organization
wom?n woman, women


If you are using Google or Google Scholar:

You can only wildcard an entire word, not a single letter as above.

If you search for: You will get results for:
"ductal * in situ" "ductal carcinoma in situ" 
"* health and safety" "occupational health and safety", "workplace health and safety"


Truncation allows you to search for all variants of a word. This is a broadening technique (more results) that will ensure you search for all possible variations of a key term in your search.

The truncation symbol is typically an asterisk (*), inserted after the last common letter in the root word.

If you are using Primo Search or a Database:

If you search for: You will get results for:
radiograph* radiography, radiographer, radiographic, etc
chocolat* chocolate, chocolates, chocolatier, etc

Google and Google Scholar do not support truncation.

Get better search results

Phrase and Keyword Searches

Sometimes you'll want to search for an exact phrase, such as commonly-used phrases like occupational health and safety or social work

Enclosing phrases in inverted commas ( " " ) will force a database to search for the words as a phrase rather than as individual keywords.

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