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Plan your search

Planning your search approach is important to find relevant results. 

Video length: 2 min 26 sec

Key points from the video

  • Identify the key concepts (main ideas) in your assignment
  • Check other ways key concepts are described in the literature
  • Create a search by connecting concepts using AND and OR
  • Alter your search strategy as you find more keywords

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Identify assignment keywords

Typing your assignment question into Google or the Library Collection is not the most effective way to search.

Mapping out your search can be a good strategy:

  • Start by identifying key concepts in your question or task. These become your keywords.
  • Note task or instruction words. These tell you what to do with the key concepts (e.g. analyse, compare, discuss) however, you don't have to search for them.

Undertake some initial searching and use course readings, encyclopedias, dictionaries, websites or thesauri to find synonyms or alternative keywords, this is important as not everyone refers to concepts in the same way.

Create a mind map or table to capture potential keywords.

Other search functions you can use

Once you have identified your key concepts and found alternative keywords, connect these to form a search strategy.

Use the following search functions to connect your keywords:

  • OR: Combines similar keywords, e.g. teenager OR adolescent
  • AND: Combines different keywords, e.g. teenager AND behaviour

Use the following functions to build your search:

  • "quotation marks": Used to search for phrases, e.g. "social media"
  • (brackets): Groups synonyms or similar keywords together, e.g. (teenagers OR "adolescent")
  • *asterisks: Searches variant spellings of keywords, e.g. behav* searches behave, behaviour, behavior

Example searches

Library Collection basic search:

Basic search (teenager OR adolescent) AND "social media" AND behav*

Library Collection advanced search allows you to place each different concept in a new search field:

Advanced search line 1 (teenager OR adolescent) line 2 AND "social media" line 3 AND behav*

Refine your results by resource type, publication date, peer-reviewed and much more.

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Test your knowledge

Referencing and academic integrity

At University, you must acknowledge when you use other people's ideas as part of your assignments. This means referencing using your program area's preferred citation style. For assistance with referencing and academic integrity refer to the University guides below.

Copyright at University

Copyright works, protected by Copyright, are material form and have a human author. Copyright protects the expression of the idea, not the idea itself. It protects published and unpublished material, including material available in electronic form.

Learn more

Academic skills

If you need further assistance, there are a number of resources created by the Student Engagement Unit to help you with your studies.