Identify key words and concepts
Once you’ve summarised your topic, identify important words and phrases. These key search words should capture the main concepts of the topic.
To conduct a comprehensive search you will need to include synonyms, alternative words or spelling variations for each search word, as databases only look for the specific words provided in a search string.
To develop an understanding of each concept and to find additional keywords use recommended readings and textbooks (My Unit Readings), dictionaries or encyclopaedias.
For example, with the topic "Does advertising encourage teenagers to take up smoking?", identify the main concepts, then list their synonyms.
- young adults
Use search operators and Boolean operators to turn your key words into an effective search string.
Search operators, like quotation marks and asterisks, allow you to search for entire phrases, or to search for a word plus additional letters. Boolean operators like AND and OR join search words together into concepts.
|Boolean & Search operators||Function|
keep words together as a phrase
Example: "young adult"
stemming or truncation (search for word plus additional letters)
Example: teen* will search for teen, teenager, teenagers
search for 2 or more words anywhere in document
Example: advertising AND teenagers
include one or the other word in document
Example: adolescents OR teenagers
Apply search operators
Look at your key words and concepts and apply the search operators to them.
- "young adult*"
Apply Boolean operators
Now use the Boolean operator OR to combine each column of key words.
(advertis* OR marketing OR media OR promotion*)
(teen* OR adolescen* OR child* OR "young adult*" OR youth*)
(smok* OR cigarette* OR tobacco OR vap*)
Create a search string
Then, use the Boolean operator AND to combine these concepts into a search string.
(advertis* OR marketing OR media OR promotion*) AND (adolescen* OR child* OR "young adult*" OR youth*) AND (cigarette* OR tobacco OR vap*)
Once you have created a search string like the one above, you can begin to search for resources for your assignment.
Librarians can help you with identifying key words and concepts and creating searches: Ask our Librarians.