Library search techniques
Use these search techniques to find the information you’re looking for.
Analyse the subject by asking yourself:
- What type of information do I need?
- What am I being asked to do?
- What does the question mean?
Identify the keywords and understand the keywords or concept and what it means to you by:
- Checking with a dictionary for meanings
- Checking with a thesaurus for alternative words – for example, physiotherapy can be physical therapy
- Check the spelling as spelling may vary from country to country – for example, ‘organization’ (US) and ‘organisation’ (UK/Australia)
Using Boolean logic, “AND”, “OR” & “NOT”
- AND: Both search words must be present in the records you retrieve.
- OR: either one or the other or both of your search words will be present in the text retrieved.
- NOT: Use not in a search to specify that records found contain the first search word but not the second.
Example: I want to find information on how home schooling affects development
|Home schooling||Home schooling||home schooling AND socialisation
home schooling AND social development
home schooling AND social skill
home schooling AND socialisation OR social development
home schooling AND socialisation OR social development OR social skill
home schooling AND socialisation NOT social skill, etc.
|Social development||Socialisation or Social development or Social skill|
To search for consecutive keywords, you MUST USE inverted commas ” ” or it will search for each keyword separately.
Truncation allows searching from root form of words to different endings. Enter a minimum of three letters of the word followed by a recognised symbol e.g. an asterisk *
Example: politic* will retrieve politics, political, politically, politician, politicians.
It is important to know that the asterisk used in this example is NOT universal.
Different databases and search engines use different symbols for truncation. A few examples are:
politic* or politic? or politic+ or politic#.
Be careful where you truncate a word. Truncating a word incorrectly will retrieve unwanted matches.
Using wildcard characters
Wildcards allow you to find a word or phrase using an asterisk (*) or question mark (?) to represent any other character that may appear in the same place. They can be used to replace one or many alphabetic characters in the search. The asterisk (*), stands for any character or characters, and the questions mark (?), stands for a single character. Wildcard characters are not permissible at the beginning of a word. When using wildcard characters, two alphanumeric characters must be used before the wildcard. The fields that are exceptions to this rule include Last Name, First Name and City. In these instances, wildcards can be used as the second character.
Dav?d = David, Davis-Floyd