UniSA College Foundation Studies: Search

Plan your search

Taking the time to plan your search will help you search more effectively and find better results. Your search strategy might change as you find more information and incorporate new keywords, but it’s always useful to start with a solid plan.

Click through the slides in the activity below to learn more:

Scroll down and click on the slide arrows to resize the activity.

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Identify key concepts and keywords

Identify your key concepts

Look at your question try to identify the main ideas. For example

'Argue to which degree increased working hours impacts on family life'

You do not need to search for task words. These tell you what to do. For example: How, Why, Explain...

Identify any synonyms or similar concepts

Are there any alternative terms for your keywords? This is important as not everyone will refer to concepts in the same way. For example:

Working hours: employment, job, shift work, career, hours of work...

Family: parents, working parents, sole parent, single parent...

Mindmaps and tables

Using a table or mindmap to write down ideas can help you organise and plan your search.

Example Mind Map, Copyright University of South Australia

Created using bubbl.us other free programs are available online including Text2MindMap

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Connecting keywords

Connecting your concepts together to search

Typing your whole question into the search box won't give you the best results. You need to connect them by using AND and OR.

Use AND to connect different concepts. This will search results containing all of these words.

Working hours AND family

Use OR to connect similar terms. This will search for results containing one or more of these words:

family OR parents

("working hours" OR "hours of work") AND (family OR parents)


Use quotations marks "..." around phrases to keep words together exactly. For example "South Australia" or "family life"

Use truncation* to find the plural and other forms of a word

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Choosing where to search

Search the Library catalogue

The Library catalogue can be a good place to start searching for scholarly material.

Remember, books can be useful for getting background or an overview of your topic.

Search example: 'Argue to which degree increased working hours impacts on family life'

Quick tips to get you started:

  • Try a topic search e.g. "work hours" family
  • Use the filters under 'Tweak my Results' to find exactly what you need.
    • Narrow by Format type: Book or Articles or Media
    • Find scholarly journal articles by selecting Show Only > Peer-reviewed journals
    • Narrow your search by a Date range.

Search the Library Catalogue

Google Scholar

Use Google Scholar to search for scholarly articles, books, conference papers and reports.


The Advanced search option gives more flexibility when you search (note you will have to click on the hamburger menu  then select Advanced search).

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