There may be times when the keywords you identify from your assignment question do not provide you with relevant or useful resources. You may find that:

  • You’re not finding relevant information
  • You’re not finding enough information

When this happens, it will be necessary to develop a search strategy to help you find what you need. A good way to develop your search is to think of the key concepts from your topic, identify alternative terms where necessary, then combine these terms with AND and OR.

Alternative terms

Authors may use different words to describe the same concept, so the keywords you identify from your assignment question may not be the most appropriate terms to use for searching. When this happens, it’s a good idea to identify alternative keywords (also known as similar terms or synonyms). This will broaden your search.

Let’s look back at our sample assignment topic:

There is discussion in the broader community about the appropriateness of celebrating Australia Day on January 26. Discuss the impact of this holiday on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and explore the ways that changing the date might impact the journey towards reconciliation in Australia.

Write a 1500 word essay on this topic. You must cite and reference at least five sources, with at least three of these being scholarly journal articles. All of your texts should be recently published.

From this topic, we identified the following key concepts:

  • Australia Day
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
  • Reconciliation

Combining your search terms

When searching in the catalogue and databases, you can join your keywords using AND and OR.

  • AND narrows your search, returning results that contain both of your terms.

  • OR broadens your search, returning results that contain either of your terms.

Other search tips

You can use these tips in the Library catalogue, databases, or Google 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 term. For example: “Australia Day”.

  • 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 variations. For example, the search term reconcil will search for reconcile, reconciled, and reconciliation.