Top tips

A more targeted search can save you time!

It can help you to retrieve more relevant results

When searching for information, adapt your search to suit the tool you are using.

Many databases have advanced search tools. These allow you to be more specific with your search and find relevant information more quickly. To build a good search, make sure you understand how to use advanced search tools. Databases differ in functionality, so read the help pages provided

Once you have a good search strategy, most databases will let you save the search. This can be really helpful if you want to repeat the search or set up an alert.

Most databases will store searches you perform in a ‘Search History’ and you can use this history to combine your searches, saving you the time, effort and potential errors of entering Boolean operators in your own typed search string.

Boolean logic

Boolean logic is used to combine different search concepts and keywords in order to retrieve more useful results. Linking two separate concepts with a Boolean operator will do one of three things:

  • AND will only look at papers that contain both concepts, thereby narrowing the amount of results returned but ensuring they are more relevant
  • OR will look at papers that contain either of the concepts, broadening the search but potentially reducing relevance
  • NOT will look for one concept only and exclude the second concept, even if it appears in a paper where both concepts appear, resulting in a very specific set of results that may exclude some papers of interest

You will need to try different combinations of these operators in order to discover the most relevant set of results for your search terms/keywords.

Wildcard and truncation

Most databases will have these tools. The symbols that they use can vary, so read the help pages provided.

Truncation

Truncation allows you to add a truncation symbol at the end of a word. The database will then look for the variations on this word. You need to think about your search and where you truncate a search term.

For example:

geol$

will retrieve references containing the words:

geology, geologists, geologist, geologic, geological

Wildcards

These allow you to add a wildcard symbol which will allow you to look for variations on that search term, depending on where you place the wildcard.

For example: 

behavi?r

will search for behavior (US spelling) or behaviour (UK spelling).

Other advanced search features

Other advanced search features include:

  • Limiting date ranges
  • Searching specific fields, such as author, abstract or title