My Information Skills

Self-paced tutorials on research and study skills for TAFE SA students

Develop a search strategy

Before you start searching the library catalogue or other online sources, it's useful to know some techniques that can help you find exactly what you're looking for and avoid retrieving too much or too little information.

Start by identifying the keywords in your assignment question.

​Discuss how global warming affects the environment. Describe how we can make our environment sustainable.

Some keywords for this assignment are:

  • global warming
  • environment
  • sustainable

Use quotation marks " " to keep words or phrases together. Your search will only retrieve results where these words are found in the exact order in which you have put them within the quotation marks.

For example:
"global warming"
"to be or not to be"
"Torres Strait Islanders"

Truncation symbols can vary between online databases and search engines. Check the help files for which symbols are used for truncation. 

Generally you can add * to the root of the word to find singular, plural or similar words:

e.g. a search for environ* finds environment, environmental, environmentally and environments

Use ? in the word to replace a letter(s) to find different forms and spellings of the word:

e.g. a search for organi?ation finds organisation or organization
e.g. a search for wom?n finds woman, women and womyn

Use # in the word where an alternate spelling may contain an extra letter:

e.g. a search for colo#r finds color or colour
e.g. a search for behavio#r  finds behavior or behaviour

Use (brackets or parentheses) to combine keywords. These will be searched first because most databases search left to right.

e.g. ("global warming" OR "climate change" OR "greenhouse effect") AND (australia* OR "new zealand") AND environ*

Watch this Youtube video by Flinders University on truncation and phrase searching: