We run workshops throughout the year on many of the topics covered in this guide and more. Take a look at what we have coming up and book your place to learn more about improving your search skills.
Most places you search online, from Google to the Library to databases, will have both basic and advanced search options. Usually a basic search will just be a standard search box, with few options available. Advanced search usually allows you to add multiple search fields, specify where to search, allow different limiting options and more.
Using advanced search can really help you to refine your search and get better, more relevant results. It will help you to combine your keywords in an effective way and will offer various options for limiting or expanding your search.
The exact features available in advanced search will vary from database to database, but there are usually a few key elements.
Most advanced searches allow you to limit your search to a particular field. These can include but are not limited to:
If you are finding you have a large number of results, or some of your results are not relevant to your topic, try narrowing it down by restricting one or more of your keywords to a particular field, such as title or abstract.
Usually you can use advanced search to combine your search terms with Boolean operators, usually from a drop-down menu.
Below is an example of a drop-down menu from JSTOR, with options to use Boolean operators or proximity searching:
Remember, you can still also type in these operators within the search boxes.
The easiest way to organise your search is by keeping one topic or concept per line, combining with AND (or NOT) and keeping your synonyms and alternatives together with OR.
For example, in this search, each line is one concept (including synonyms), with the lines combined with AND and NOT from the drop-down menu:
There will also be options within advanced search for limiting your results, for example by date, document type, language and so on. Again this will vary between databases, with some having many options and others relatively few.