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Search techniques

Too many results OR too few results?

Start off with a general search using the main concept

If you find TOO MANY HITS, make your search more specific by adding another concept to your search statement. 

       Use AND to join search terms:    Demonstration              

If you find NOT ENOUGH HITS, try using different words to find more information.

      Use OR to widen your search:   Demonstration         

Phrase searching

Use inverted commas or quotation marks around phrases.  Your search will look for these words only where they appear next to each other in this order.

   Example:   "media violence"    "eating disorders" 

Check the Help screen of the database or search engine you are using as some do not require inverted commas around phrases.


Truncating a term will find all possible endings of a word and will find more hits.  The truncation character is usually an asterisk (*).

   Example:   child* will find the terms children, child, childless etc      Demonstration



You can use wildcards to find different spellings of the same word such as organization and organisation.

They commonly stand for exactly one letter.       Demonstration

The character is often a ? such as organi?ation.  You should check the Help page of the database you are using for the correct wildcard character. 

Search strategy exercise


Practice creating an appropriate search query for the question given (left) by placing the concept and operator labels into the box in the correct order. Then click "check answer." You will probably not use all of the labels.

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Build a search strategy and test your understanding of search logic.
Tags: eap, international_college, qce003