Using advanced search techniques will help you find the most relevant resources.
Here you will learn how to use truncation, wild cards, phrase searching, and Boolean operators to focus your search strategies having identified your keywords and synonyms. See the Basic searching guide for information on keyword searching.
For further help with these searching, contact your Academic Liaison Librarian.
Truncation broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings. To use truncation, enter the stem of a word and place the truncation symbol, normally an asterisk (*) at the end. The database will find results that include the word that you entered, plus any ending. If you are unsure which symbol to use for truncation searching, refer to the help section on the specific database.
Be careful not to truncate too soon, e.g., comp* will retrieve too many false results.
To find alternative English and American spellings, in most databases, use the question mark symbol (?) to replace or ignore a letter, known as wild card searching.
For example: organi?ation to find organisation or organization and behavi?r to find behaviour or behavior.
If you are unsure which symbol to use for wild card searching, refer to the help section on the specific database.
Some databases assume words typed next to each other should be searched as one phrase. However, most academic databases automatically put a Boolean AND between your search terms. This means all your keywords will be present in your search results but not necessarily adjacent to each other. This can lead to retrieving results that are not relevant to your topic. To avoid this happening, use "double quotation marks" to ensure your search terms are found as a phrase in your results.
For example: “later life” “maternity leave” “living standards” OR “standards of living”
Most databases provide an advanced search option to help you focus your search. This can be useful to combine multiple search terms such as an author and a subject term. It also helps to build complex searches when wishing to filter larger search results.
This is where to find the Advanced search option on Locate.
Boolean operators are valuable tools when searching databases. They are not necessary to use on search engines such as Google but are a requirement for most academic databases. This is because the search engines on research databases are not as sophisticated and unable to recognise full sentence searching, spelling mistakes or natural language. This does however facilitate more precision searching and gives you greater control over the potential results you retrieve.
The three basic Boolean operators are: AND, OR, and NOT.
Use AND in a search to:
e.g., diet AND obesity will retrieve results that include both words
Avoid adding unnecessary words as you may exclude key information. Sometimes the simpler the search, the better.
Use OR in a search to:
e.g., diet OR nutrition will retrieve results that include either word.
Use NOT in a search to:
e.g., obesity NOT child*
Take care when using the NOT Boolean operator. It is easy to exclude articles that you may want to find.
Combining search terms
When combining search terms such as AND and OR use parentheses (brackets) to combine similar search terms.
For example (teenager OR adolescent) AND (diet OR nutrition).
The database will find either word in the first set of brackets. It will then find either word in the second set of brackets and finally combine the two search results to find a new set of results with one of the keywords from both set one and set two.
Ensure your search is logical. Depending on where you place the Boolean connectors, different results will be achieved.
For example, if you are searching for articles about childhood nutrition.