Search Technique

There are search techniques which can be used in databases and search engines, techniques which you can use  to search more efficiently. Search techniques can vary between database, so please remember to read the user guide  of the  database before you begin searching

Narrow or broaden your search

Boolean operators are use to narrow or broaden your search. The most common boolean operators are:

  • AND narrows your search. Searching for phobia AND spider will give results where both words (phobia and spider) are included. AND is normally default and implied in databases, i.e., databases automatically put an AND between your search terms
  • OR broadens your search. Searching for phobia OR fear will give results with at least one the words phobia or fear. Synonyms should be combined with an OR.
  • NOT narrows your search.  Searching for phobia NOT spider will include results with the word phobia, but exclude results with spider.

Parentheses can be used to combine AND, OR and NOT in your search. Searching for spider AND (fear OR phobia OR anxiety) will give results with the word spider and at least one of the words fear, phobia or anxiety.

Truncate to find different word endings and plurals

An asterisk (*) is often used to search for different word endings in databases. Searching for develop* will include results like development, developing and developed. 

Search for an exact phrase

Putting “Sustainable development” in quotations marks will give results exactly as you typed them and exclude results where sustainable and development appear as two separate words.

Search using subject terms

Many databases use subject terms (index terms, subject headings, keywords, descriptor) to desribe the content of the documents. The subject terms can be used for new searches. Check if the database has its own list of subject terms (thesaurus).

Other ways to limit your searches

Most databases allow you to limit your search  by date, language, peer-review articles etc.