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Relationships between terms

In order to search a catalogue or database you need to join search terms together to form a search statement. Use AND, OR and NOT to link terms together.

The following Venn diagrams represent search statements using two search terms joined with AND and OR. The shaded area represents the records that would be retrieved.

venn diagram - AND

Google and other search engines generally AND all search terms by default.

Here's an example of a structured search statement using Boolean operators to connect terms. The research topic relates to drug and alcohol use by young people.


AND alcohol*



In most cases there is no single, perfect search strategy that will encompass all aspects of your research. It's inevitable that you'll need to use a number of different strategies and be prepared to adapt them, depending on the database you're searching and the results retrieved.

You will use combinations of the search tools described in this module to develop effective search strategies. These tools have been summarised in the Search Tips guide (PDF format, 30KB).

Try this:



Keep a research record (PDF format, 42KB) of the search strategies you have used, even the unsuccessful ones, as this will save you time should you need to repeat a search. Some databases have a facility to enable you to save your searches, and run them again at a later stage.

Using Part 2 of the Search Planner (PDF format, 50KB) you printed earlier, record possible search strategies for your research. You will use these search strategies once you have identified relevant databases.