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.

WEL427 Research Skills Guide: Search strategies

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. land rights AND sustainability
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. green OR environmental
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. green NOT colour
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (green OR environmental) AND "social work"
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "murray darling basin", "eco-social practice"
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

Get better search results

Activity

Try combining some of your keywords using some common search tips.

  • Do you have similar terms to link with OR?
  • Do you have any phrases?
  • Can you combine two different terms with an AND?