Search Tips


Use keywords Example
  • Do not search as you would in Google (e.g., instead of ‘What causes diabetes?’ use keywords such as ‘diabetes’ and ‘causes’)
  • Use speech marks for phrases of two or more words (e.g.,“Treaty of Waitangi”)
  • Resources such as Credo or Wikipedia are good places to identify keywords related to your topic

Assignment topic: Assess the impact that social media has had on recent outbreaks of civil unrest.




Use related terms Example
  • Improve your search by using synonyms (different words with the same meaning) (e.g., if searching for ‘teenagers,’ also search ‘adolescents’). Use both words so you do not miss important resources
  • Use a thesaurus to help find synonyms or Google ‘synonym’ and your keyword
  • Use OR to combine synonyms in your searches (e.g., teenagers OR adolescents)



Alternate endings Example
  • When searching for a word that can have multiple endings use truncation (e.g., when searching for words such as child, children, and childhood, use child* to include them all)
  • Some databases may use ‘?’ instead of ‘*’. Use the database’s help if you are unsure



Combine your terms Example
  • Use AND, OR, NOT to combine your terms
    • AND will search for all terms
    • OR will return results with at least one of your terms
    • NOT will exclude results (e.g., cats NOT dogs)
  • Use brackets to keep the parts of your search distinct



Decreasing your results Example
  • Make keywords more specific or add extra keywords
  • Use limiters to limit results (e.g., limit to a specific date range or resource type, or to peer reviewed or full-text resources only, or other database specific limiters). Limiters are usually on the left or right margins
  • Select a subject specific database rather than a general one
  • Be wary of using keywords that can be used in multiple contexts

Extra keywords: e.g., impact OR affect

More specific keywords: e.g., Twitter, Facebook

Use limiters: e.g. recent dates are more relevant for this topic



Increasing your results Example
  • Broaden your search using synonyms (see Use Related Terms)
  • Consider reducing the number of keywords. Exclude the least important
  • Use truncation (see Alternate Endings)
  • Use broader terms (especially for books)
  • Try searching other library resources

Use more synonyms: e.g.,“online communication,” “civil disturbance”

Use broader terms: e.g., ‘politics’ is broader than ‘civil unrest’

Other resources: Check the relevant Subject Guide



If you require further help with finding journal articles please ask at the desk or contact the Information & Learning Technologies Librarian.

Adam Smith
ph| (06) 974 8000, extension 6067