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Search the literature: Improve your search

Expand search results

One method to expand the search is to use a symbol to represent one or more characters. This allows you to capture all forms of a word in one search, including:
  • English and American spellings
  • singular and plural
  • variant endings
Truncation symbols
  • Often the (*) asterisk.
  • Normally added to the end of a word.
  • Used to capture singular, plural or variations of a term.
  • For example econom* finds economy, economics, economical, etc.
Wildcard symbols
  • Will vary between databases e.g. ?, #, *, $
  • Used in the middle of words.
  • Replaces one or more characters.
  • For example, wom?n finds woman, women, womyn etc.

Focus search results

Link terms to increase relevance

While an article may contain your keywords, it may not be in a way you intend. Linking terms can improve the relevance of the results.

Proximity searching
  • Looks for one term within a specified distance of another.
  • Increases the likelihood the terms are used in a similar context.
  • Find terms in the same phrase, sentence or paragraph.
  • e.g. oil W3 spill
Phrase searching
  • Place two or more words in "inverted commas" or "quote marks".
  • Looks for a specific phrase, as entered.
  • Without "" the terms will be searched separately.
  • e.g. "climate change"
Select database-appropriate terms

Some databases use a controlled vocabulary, or consistent and predefined terminologies for describing and organising information.

Thesaurus
  • A collection of preferred indexing terms of a particular database.
  • Adds specificity to your search as you will.
  • Highlights relationships between terms in hierarchical format.
Subject headings
  • Most databases attach subject headings to the articles.
  • Follow the links to additional articles on the same subject.
  • Add the subject to a search to locate relevant results.

Did you know...

Always read the database help or search tips for more information.

 

View examples from some of the common databases.

Web resources

Database tutorials