The University Library remains open to staff and students. Check here for up to date information about Library services impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Politics and International Relations: Planning your search

Get started


John Keogh 'English Dictionaries', CC Licence: CC BY 2.0, Image source: Flickr

Use reference books to define terms, or find topic overviews, to become more familiar and locate better resources for your assessments.

See example reference works below:

Plan your search

You must have a broad understanding of your topic, before you can search for information or write your assignment. Consider:

  • Thumbs up <image, public doman>What do you need to do?  

  • What do you know? Or need to explore further?

  • Do you need to define any terms?

  • What types of evidence do you need?

  • Does information need to be current?

  • Do any theories apply to your topic?

  • Do you need facts and figures, or statistics?

Discuss the impact of Australian government policy on Australia’s carbon emissions and global warming?

The main concepts in your question form the foundation of your search:image source: pixabay

  • impact
  • Australian
  • government policy
  • carbon emissions
  • global warming

To cover the range of terminology used in the literature, you must also identify any synonyms or similar keywords for each concept:

  • Australia, government policies; state policy; discharge; universal; carbonise; heat; greenhouse gas

Also consider:

  •  Plurals, different word forms ( policy vs policies or emission vs emissions)
  •  Different spellings (decarbonise vs carbonize), and hyphenated words (global warming vs global-warming)
  • Acronyms or Abbreviations  (government vs govt)

Once you have your list of terms for each concept, you can combine them to create a search strategy.

First simplify your search. Use truncation, wildcards and phrases to cover word variations:


finds unlimited characters after the symbol

must be used at the end of a word/word stem


finds Australia, Australian, etc....


finds zero or one character to replace the symbol

can be used anywhere in a word


finds carbonise, carbonize

   " "

keeps two or words together in the entered order

"global warming"

Now connect your remaining terms using AND, OR.

  • Use OR to connect different terms within the same concept

  • Use AND to connect each concept.

For example:

(Australia* OR Australian) AND carboni?e AND policies*

Example reference works