Search tips and planning
Searching is a trial-and-error process. A good idea is to explore different approaches. This means trying different search terms, databases, and techniques to experiment with how your search results change.
There is no one right way to search, but these tips can help improve your results.
Break it into steps
Approach your search with these simple steps. Click on each of the steps to learn more.
Use search techniques
Two common problems you might face include finding too many results or not enough. Try using the techniques below to broaden or narrow your search.
Note: To access table on mobile devices switch to 'landscape mode'
|Search technique||When to use it?||Example||What it does?|
|AND||Searching for two different concepts||Teenager AND “social media”||Narrows search results|
|OR||Searching for two similar concepts||Teenager OR adolescent||Broadens search results|
|NOT||Excluding a term from your search||Teenager NOT child||Narrows search results|
|Truncation (*)||Searching for alternative word endings||Teen*||Broadens search results|
|Phrase searching (“”)||Searching for an exact phrase||“social media”||Narrows search results|
|Wildcard (?)||Searching for alternative spelling||Organi?ation||Broadens search results|
|Using brackets||Grouping concepts in a single search box||(teen* OR adolescent) AND “social media”||Allows grouping of keywords within a single search box|
Note: Some databases use different symbols to apply these search techniques. Check the help menu in a database to learn more.
Understanding search techniques
Let’s explore these techniques in more detail. Imagine you want to find information on the use of social media among teenagers.
Learn how each technique can help you below.
Have a go at applying some of the search techniques in the below activities.
Plan your search
Like to take notes? Try using our search planner to make notes about your topic, search terms and to plan a search strategy.
Where to next?
Now that you have learnt about search techniques and how to plan your search, the next step is to start applying these strategies.
A good starting place is the Library Search on the library homepage. We also recommend that you visit the relevant Library Resource Guide for your subject area to get to know which databases to start with.
If you need further advice, contact your librarian for specialist support.