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Research and Learning skills: Searching more effectively

Quick tips

To be able to search more efficiently and effectively can challenging if you are not sure of where or what to start your search. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Allow enough time

  • Analyse your assignment

  • Begin with a brainstorm

  • Be careful with web-based research. See Evaluating sources

  • Look out for words with alternative spelling

  • Phrase searching. To be able to get more relevant or useful results:

    • you need your keywords to stick together in the exact order e.g. food habits.

    • you may need to enclose the words in quotation marks ( " " ) to create a search for the exact phrase e.g. consumer behaviour. This works best for two or three words. 

  • Use the Boolean Operators AND (also + or &), OR, and NOT (also -)

  • Use wildcard symbols. Wild card is a symbol you can use either in the middle or at the end of a word to catch any alternate spelling options for that word.

    • Most common wildcard symbols are a question mark (?) or an asterisk (*).

    • Using the asterisk (*) for finding both singular or plural forms of a word e.g work* for work, works.

    • Using the asterisk (*) for finding words that begin with the root e.g. manag* for manage, manager, managing, managerial.

    • Using the question mark (?) for finding words spelled in different ways e.g. orgni?ation for organisation, organization.

  • Know your search limits.

  • Ask a librarian.

  • Check your reference lists of the resources you find.

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