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Ten tips for database searching


10 tips to get you started searching databases 

1. Use keywords - Identify the main concepts or keywords from your assessment.  Databases searches use keywords, unlike Google which uses natural language or full sentences.


2. Try different keywords or synonyms - For example, if you're not finding anything with the term "climate change", you could try "global warming"


3. Use "quotation marks"  - When searching using a concept that is described by two or more words (a phrase), use "quotation marks". This will retrieve articles that contain the words next to each other.

"climate change"


4. Use Advanced Search - This allows you to combine several keywords at once, building a targeted search to deliver the best results.



5. Use AND, OR or NOT 

  • Use AND to narrow your searches and retrieve articles that contain both terms.
"climate change" AND Australia


  • Use OR to search for similar terms together.
"climate change" OR "global warming" will retrieve articles that contain either term, broadening your search results. 


  • Use NOT to exclude a term.
sustainability NOT recycling


Go to: Searching made easy with AND, OR & NOT for more information. 


6. Select 'full text' to guarantee you get the full article every time.


7. Select the 'peer reviewed' limiter to retrieve articles from peer reviewed journals to guarantee you retrieve high quality academic material.


Go to Peer-reviewed journals for more information


8. Refine your search using other limiters, for example, source type, publication date and subject.


9. Check your spelling. Databases don't recognise misspelt words and you will get no results. Also, many words have different British and US spelling and may retrieve different results, e.g. organization, organisation. You may need to search on both spellings, e.g. organization OR organisation.


10. Save your searches! To save your search results as you go, download a PDF of the articles, email them to yourself or export articles to a reference management software, such as Mendeley. You can also create a personal account in the databases and save articles there.