Advanced Database Searching

This guide will help you identify keywords and concepts in an assignment topic, explain how to develop a search strategy for databases searching, and provide searching tips.

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Search strategy

Boolean Operators are the building blocks of any search strategy. It is essential to think about which terms can/should be ANDed and ORed. Generally synonyms are ORed together, and main concepts are ANDed together.

Whilst there is no right or wrong way to search for online resources, there are some techniques that you can use to help make your searching more productive.

A typical search strategy looks like this: ("*" is a truncation device, to allow for variant word endings, i.e. plural)

1) mobile device* OR mobile phone* OR  iphone* OR  smart phone* OR  ipad* OR  tablet*


2) learn* OR  education OR  study*


3) universit* OR  college* OR  higher education OR  tertiary institution*


4) austral* (See Advanced searching techniques in this guide for an explanation of how to use the "*", known as "truncation")

5) Now combine the concepts together, by joining the search statement results with "AND"


the net result of this search will give you at least some relevant articles, i.e. those containing all 4 concepts.

It is very important to note that if you wish to use AND and OR in the same search line, you need to parenthisise "( )" your synonyms (OR terms) e.g. (mobile device* OR ipad*) AND (learn* OR education) AND (universit* OR college*) AND (austral*)

Basic rule:   Information within parentheses is read first, then information outside parentheses is read next.

Joining search words & concepts together - "Boolean" operators

The three Boolean operators are:

1)    AND          "and" will narrow a search

e.g. mobile device AND education


The search results must contain all of the terms together in each article or resource

2)    OR          "or" will broaden a search

e.g. mobile device OR ipad OR tablet

The search results need to contain at least one of the search terms.

The third Boolean connector is:

3)    NOT          "not" will exclude certain words from your results

e.g. university NOT school

The search results will include the term "university" only, excluding any resources that include the term "school"


Use the "NOT" connector with caution.

e.g.    Cats NOT siamese will eliminate resources that mention both the words "cats" and "siamese", but beware of false hits: 

"This article is about cats, but does not include the siamese breed". Perfect article!

A Blue-point Snowshoe Siamese Cat

A Blue-point Snowshoe Siamese Cat . [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

It's easy to throw out the baby with the bath water!