Research skills

Search strategies

Linking your search terms

To make your search effective, think about how you link your keywords together. This will ensure that you can connect together different concepts or keywords, rather than searching for a phrase.

Linking search terms

The main connectors (often called Boolean connectors) you can use are:

AND – finds both your keywords: Beer AND hangover

OR – finds either of your keywords: Beer OR lager

NOT – excludes a keyword: Beer NOT hangover (be careful – relevant results could still include your term!)

Grouping alternative terms

You can use brackets to group together terms that are linked within your search. So, use OR to connect two similar terms within brackets to find either term AND another term together:

Hangover and (beer or lager) will find results containing:

  • hangover and beer
  • hangover and lager

Using these will allow you to build up detailed searches.

Tip:

Some databases and search engines may include AND for you or use different connectors.

Use the Help links or Search tips provided by each resource for more information.

Phrase searching

You can search for a specific phrase by enclosing it in "quotation marks". This will ensure your search terms are found in the order specified e.g. "Southampton beer festival".

Have a go at the quiz to see if you can select the correct linking elements to make a search strategy (see below).