Skip to main content

Doing Research: Search Techniques

Search Tips

Use synonyms--try to think of several different ways that your serch term or concept could be stated. Example: multicultural, cultural differences and diversity could all be used for the same concept.

Double check your spelling--if you have misspelled a word your results will probably not be good.

Search Techniques

In most databases you start your search using keywords related to your topic in a query box and request a search.The search engine attempts to match the keywords with entries in its database then returns a "hit list" of records related to the keywords. The records in the results hit list are usually ranked by relevance with the best matches at the top of the list.

Search Operators.

Your search can usually be improved by using search operators which help make your search more precise. some search operators are so widely used they have become practically universal, these are:

Boolean Operators

  • +word or AND : search for text that contains all the word I am listing
  • -word NOT: exclude text that contains this word
  • OR: used to obtain results containing any of the mentioned keywords

Exact or Phrase search

  • "phrase": search for text that contains this exact combination of words e.g. "mutual fund"

Trunction or Wildcard

  • Truncation *: or stemming which allows you to retrieve the term and its variations e.g cultur*, culture, cultural ...
  • Wildcard ?: skip one or more letters in a word to cover variation in spelling

Advanced Search

Most search engines provide advanced search feaures where you can refine your search by limiting it to specific fields such as author, title, keyword or by date.

 Most search engines  have help page for both basic and more advanced searches.

Tutorial Links