The first step in searching is to identify the main ideas or themes of your research question - your keywords.
Alternative terms (synonyms):
Once you have identified your keywords think of any alternative terms (synonyms) which could also be used to find relevant information.
For example, you may search for material containing the term 'teenagers'. You might also search for the word 'youth' as they mean the same thing.
If you use both terms you will broaden your search, and find more resources.
Combining search terms: AND, OR, NOT
In databases, use the terms AND, OR and NOT to define the relationship between your keywords.
AND » finds records that contain BOTH terms
When you join two words or phrases together with AND, the database will retrieve only those references which contain both terms.
This narrows your search.
For example: cyberbullying AND teenagers
OR » finds records that contain ANY of the terms
Use OR to find alternative terms.
The more alternative terms you use, the larger the number of references you retrieve.
This broadens your search.
For example: teenagers OR youth
NOT » finds records containing the first search term, but not the second
Use the NOT operator to exclude a term.
WARNING - use NOT with care; relevant articles can be excluded if they briefly mention the second term.
For example: cyberbullying NOT trolls
To instruct a database to locate two or more words next to each other (as a phrase), use double quotation marks.
This will retrieve a reduced and more relevant number of search results.
For example: “climate change”
Use truncation to broaden your search by substituting a word ending with a symbol.
Often databases use an asterisk (*).
For example, cyberbull* will look for the terms cyberbully, cyberbullies and cyberbullying.
You can use wildcards to broaden your search by finding alternative word spellings.
Often databases use a question mark (?).
For example, searching on organi?ation will bring up both organiSation and organiZation.
Watch this video to learn more about the main stages of researching and writing an assignment.
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