Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Curtin College, UniReady and Alumni: Plan your search

Curtin College, UniReady & Alumni

Starting your search

When you have your assignment topic you can start planning your search. Your search results are tied to the keywords that you use, so it's very important that you use the right words to find the right information. Start by looking for the main ideas or concepts in your assignment topic. 


Let's look at a sample assignment topic: "Discuss the effectiveness of social media as a marketing tool for promoting products to adolescents"

There are three main concepts in this topic:

  • Social media
  • Marketing
  • Adolescents

The main concepts become the foundation of your keyword search and are an excellent starting point for your research. Try a quick search in ProQuest and see if the results are relevant. Sometimes, you'll find exactly what you need! If not, use the search tips below to identify alternative search terms.

Finding alternative terms

Authors may use different keywords to describe the same concept. The keywords identified from the assignment question won't always be the most appropriate terms to use for searching. You may find that:

  1. You're not finding relevant journal articles OR
  2. You're not finding as much information as you would like.

When this happens, it's a good idea to identify alternative keywords (also known as synonyms or similar terms). This will broaden your search. 


For our sample assignment topic some alternative terms for the main concepts could be:

  • Social media: social networking
  • Marketing: promotion, advertising
  • Adolescents: teenagers, youth, young adults

Combining your search terms with AND and OR

When searching in ProQuest and other databases, you can join your keywords using AND and OR. 

  • AND narrows your search, instructing the database that you're only interested in articles that contain both of your terms. For example, a search for social media AND marketing will only return records containing both the terms social media and marketing.
  • OR broadens your search, instructing the database that you're interested in articles that contain either of your terms. For example, a search for social media OR social networking will locate all records containing either the terms social media or social networking.


Search tips

You can use these tips in the databases to enhance your search:

  • Phrase searching

Phrase searching means searching for two words or a string of words as an exact phrase. By using this technique you will only retrieve articles where those words appear together in the text. To search for a phrase, add double quotes around the terms. For example: "social media"

  • Truncation

The truncation symbol (usually an asterisk *) is useful for finding different endings of a word. It is added after the last common letter of the variations. For example the search term network* will search for network, networks, networked, networking.