Once you have chosen your search terms, the next step is to try them in different databases. In order for your search results to be as relevant as possible, you need to know some basic search techniques.
Combine search terms
By using the Boolean operators AND, OR and NOT, you can combine your search terms and steer your search.
If you put AND between your search terms, that means all the search words must be in your search hits. For example, climate change AND youth. The more search terms you combine with AND, the fewer hits you will get.
If you put OR between your search terms, that means all or one of the search words must be in your search hits. For example: climate change OR global warming. Use OR when you search for synonyms and/or closely related terms in order to broaden your search. The more search words you combine with OR, the more hits you will get.
Only use NOT when you want to exclude a word from your search. For example: electric cars NOT hybrid cars
Search for a phrase
Use quotation marks “ ” when you want to search for a term that is made up of two or more words, for example, “social media”. Then you will get hits with the actual term. However, if you search for social media without the quotation marks, you will get hits with either of these two words when they occur separately in text as well.
Search for parts of words (truncation)
Search for the first part of a word followed by * to find all possible endings and inflected forms of the word. For example: brain* will give hits for brains, braininess, brainchild, brainstorm, brainstem, etc.
Search in selected fields
If you do a search using the database’s advanced search function, it is often possible to search only in selected fields, for example, author, subject word or in abstracts. This will give fewer and hopefully better hits.
Learn more about how to search in selected fields in this film from Linnaeus University