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Research skills tutorial

Step 2 Example - What is your search strategy?

Your assignment topic is "Chocolate can make you happy. Discuss."  Go back to Example 1 to see the keywords.  Now you need to combine those keywords with some search boosters to create a search strategy.

Keywords with Boolean, Truncation and Brackets

Begin by searching for the main keywords, e.g. chocolate AND happy

To expand your search try adding terms that mean the same as happy, using the OR Boolean Operator.  By placing the alternate words inside the brackets, you tell the search engine to treat the alternate words as a group. 

Think of it like cooking: mix all the wet ingredients together (alternative words for keyword 1, using OR), then all the dry ingredients together (alternate words for keyword 2, using OR), and then combine the wet with the dry (finding results with variations of the both the keywords, using AND).

e.g. chocolate AND (pleasure OR satisfaction OR happy OR happiness OR joy)

Try using truncation to find different endings to your keywords e.g. enjoy*

This will find enjoy, enjoyed, enjoying, enjoyment etc.

However, if you used it with happ* you would find words like happen and happening as well as happiness, happy and happily.

To exclude some words, such as depression or obesity, use the NOT operator.

e.g. chocolate AND (pleasure OR satisfaction OR happy OR happiness OR joy OR enjoy*) NOT (depression OR obesity)


Decide which limiters you want to use.  If you want to limit your result to recent publications, select an appropriate date range.

e.g. 2008 - 2013

Field Searching

Also, decide which field you want to search.  To start with search only in the Abstract (summary of the article) field, but if you don't find anything try searching some additional fields, like Title and Subject.

You may want to limit the results to only those articles written in English, or even those published in Australia.


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