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Plan your search

Planning your search

If you are a coursework student, it is strongly recommended that you read the assessment details in your Course Outline and course site.

Planning your search is key to getting the most out of your search results. The following video will help you get started.

 Video Length: (2 min 26 sec)

  • Identify the key concepts in your question or topic
  • Think about what other words (similar words or alternative terms) might be used to describe the key concepts
  • Connect your concepts using AND and OR
  • You can change your search as you find more information

 Read: How to plan your search - PDF (275.61 KB)

Identify keywords

Keywords / Key concepts

The first step in developing an effective search strategy involves identifying key concepts or main ideas (also known as keywords or search terms) from your assignment. These terms will become your search terms.


How has social media affected modern journalism?

Search terms

  • Social media
  • Modern journalism

Task words

Task words (also known as instruction words) are telling you what to do with the key concepts (e.g. analyse, compare, discuss).

Use these with caution as they can narrow the results too much. Consider taking them out or adding them to see the different results.


How has social media affected modern journalism?

Task words

  • How
  • Affected

Consider alternative words

Authors may refer to topics using different words. Add alternative words to expand and include relevant results.



Alternative words

  • Power
  • Fuel

Use a thesaurus and consider:

  • Pluralsdifferent word forms (identity vs identities)
  • Different spellings (labour vs labor), and hyphenated words (self-identity vs self identity)
  • Acronyms or Abbreviations (United States of America vs US vs USA)

Connect your keywords

Once you have identified your keywords and found alternative keywords, you need to connect these to put your search together.

Use the following operators (also known as booleans) to indicate how you want to search for your keywords:

Operator Function Example
OR Connects similar keywords Gas OR petrol
AND Connects different keywords Australia AND migration
"Quotation marks" Keeps phrases together "Social media"
(Brackets) Groups similar words together ("Cultural diversity" OR Multiculturalism)
Asterisk* Truncation - Placed at the end of words to find alternative word endings Market* = marketing, markets

You don't have to use all the operators to search and can modify your search strategy by eliminating/adding key concepts.

Example search:

("social media" OR facebook) AND politics