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Use the Library to get started with your assessment

Developing a search strategy

Now that you have mapped out your keywords and alternative terms, you are ready to develop your search strategy.

Below are some handy tips to help you find the most relevant information. 

Tips to improve your searching

While different search engines operate in slightly different ways, there are some common techniques you can use when searching.

Watch this video for search tips that will save you time and ensure your search results are more relevant.

RMIT University Library 2020, Tips for improving your search strategy, YouTube, 11 August, RMIT University, Melbourne, viewed 12 August 2020, <>.

Search tips

The following tips will help you to define the relationship between your keywords.

Many of these tips were also mentioned in the 'Tips for improving your search strategy' video above .


Use AND to find records that contain both termsAND » 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: "climate change" AND bushfires


Use OR to find records that contain any termsOR » 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: bushfires OR "forest fires"

Use NOT to find records containing the first term but not the secondNOT » 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: "global warming" NOT floods



Phrase searching

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, Australia* will look for the terms Australia, Australia's, Australian and Australians.



Use wildcards to broaden your search by finding alternative word spellings.  

Often databases use a question mark (?).  

For example, searching for globali?ation will bring up references containing either globaliSation or globaliZation.


Example search strategy

Your search strategy may look something like this:

discuss OR analyse


"climate change" OR climate crisis" OR "global warming"


bushfires OR "forest fires" OR wildfires