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Sustainable Futures (ENVI1153)

About this tutorial

This tutorial will help you

  • decide where to search for resources relating to your case study 
  • locate the information you need 
  • identify where to get help

Read the information, watch the videos and then work through the exercises to test your understanding.

Get started by watching the video below which shows how to identify keywords and change your research topic into a search statement.  

Open the Developing your search strategy video

Tips for developing your search strategy


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.


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: cyberbullying AND teenagers


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: teenagers OR youth

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: cyberbullying NOT trolls



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, 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.


Planning your assignment

Watch this video to learn more about the main stages of researching and writing an assignment.