> Use to: widen your search and ensure you don’t miss relevant search results
Most databases are not intelligent, they will just search for exactly what you type in. Truncation and wildcard symbols enable you to overcome this limitation. These search techniques find information on similar words by replacing part of the word with a symbol usually a * or ?.
In truncation the end of the word is replaced. For example theat* will find results including the words theatre, theater, theatric, theatrical and so on.
In wildcard searching, single letters from inside the word are replaced with a symbol. For example wom?n will retrieve the terms woman and women.
Please note! Different databases use different symbols for truncation and wildcard searching, so use the online help option to check what is used.
> Use to: combine your search words and include synonyms
Also known as Boolean operators, search operators allow you to join terms together, widen a search or exclude terms from your search results. This means you can be more precise in locating your information. Not all databases support Boolean searching.
Please note! Check the online help screens for details of the search operators recognized by the database you are searching; some use symbols instead of words, e.g. + or &.
> Use to: make your search more specific
Phrase searching is a technique that narrows your search down by searching for an exact phrase or sentence. It is particularly useful when searching for a title or a quotation. Usually speech marks are used to connect the words together. For example “Power transition theory” will find results which contain that phrase. Some search tools may use (brackets) or 'single quote marks' rather than speech marks so check the online help.
Focusing a search by date, language or document type
There are many ways to focus your search and all databases offer different ways of doing this. Check the help facilities if the options are not immediately obvious. Some of the ways of limiting your search are as follows:
Date of publication
Place of publication
Type of material e.g. chapters in books, review articles, book reviews
“Cited reference” / “cited by” / “times cited” search
When you find a useful article or book, looking at its bibliography will give you information about other, older, books and articles on your research topic. Some databases also allow you to search for literature which has cited the article or book you have found. This can give you useful leads on more recent research on the same topic. There is no standard name for this type of search; depending on which database you are searching it may be referred to as“Cited reference” or “cited by” or “times cited”.