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Information Skills

Videos and online tutorials to support and develop information skills.

Basic vs Advanced Searching

A basic search will work well while you are searching for broad topics or if you are just looking for books and ebooks. However, you might want to consider using the Advanced Search option especially when looking to for information which focuses on a specific aspect of a topic, or while searching for journal articles.

This tutorial will help you get the best out of the library’s online databases. Learn to use advanced search tools to build a search strategy, and how to adjust and refine a search to retrieve more relevant results.

Advanced Searching

The search boxes allow you to construct a more focused search and adjust it more easily.

Use one box for each of the main topic areas you are looking for. In this example below the search topics are grief and relationships and interventions. Use three boxes, one for each topic and include synonyms for each topic in that box. If you want to include more topics in your search, most databases will allow you to add boxes.

Between each search box you are able to choose the appropriate Boolean operator to connect your search terms.

For the search below, the AND operator is selected and OR operators are used in the search boxes between synonyms. You can also refine your search string at this stage by adding wildcards, truncation and phrases. For example, in this search you could truncate bereavement and counselling and therapy.

You are able to use the ‘Select a field’ drop down menus to tell the database where to look for search terms.

You might have to adjust these fields if you’ve limited the search too much. You might also try mixing and matching across the search boxes as some fields will work better with different keywords. Below is a brief definition of some of the common fields you can choose from:

  • Select a Field or Any Field - Will look through all sections of item records for your keywords. This will deliver a larger, more comprehensive set of results.
  • All Text - Will look through the entire full-text of the items. This will deliver the largest set of results but they may not always be the most relevant.
  • Author - Use when you want to search for a particular author or theorist. Begin by just using the author's surname. • Title - Will just search through the titles of the items in the database. This will give you a much smaller and relevant set of results.
  • Subject terms - Will look through the subject tags attached to each record. Again, this will give you a smaller more relevant list of results.
  • Abstract - When looking for journal articles, limiting to an abstract search will often give you a relevant, yet comprehensive search. The abstract is the summary you find at the beginning of a research article.

After you hit the search button and retrieve your results list, you will also see a Refine Results menu, usually down the left or right hand side of the page. This menu allows you to use the built in facets of the database to easily refine the results and deliver a more relevant list. A few ways of limiting the search include:

  • Peer Review: If you are unsure about assessing scholarly material, you can limit the results to just peer reviewed studies.
  • Date: You may also just want to look at recent research and publications. To do this, limit by date from the Publication Date field.
  • Facets: And you can make use of the limiting facets produced by the database. These are based on the metadata from your results list. Subject or Thesaurus terms are often a good place to start in order to make your results a little more relevant but there is often a variety of other options to choose from such as gender, age, geography, publication type and so on.