Follow the steps on this page when searching databases or the web.
Don’t type your essay question into a database; instead break it into important concepts. For example, if your question is:
Investigate the impact of advertising cigarettes on teenagers
The important concepts are advertising, cigarettes and teenagers
Next think of alternative words (synonyms) for your important concepts. This will make your search as broad as possible.
Using the example above,
Most databases offer advanced search features. These can help ensure that your search is highly relevant. Check the individual databases for details; you may be able to limit where your search terms appears, for example in the title, or set a date range or a country of origin.
Using the example above the search would look like this:
advert* or market* or promot*
cigar* or smok* or tobacco
teenage* or youth* or adolescen*
Combine your search terms using OR and AND. This will save you time and give you more accurate results.
OR will broaden your search, if you search for
advertising OR marketing
you will get results with any of these words in them.
This diagram shows how using OR between terms will broaden your search; you will get results on either of the topics.
advertising OR marketing: OR broadens your search
AND will focus your search, if you search for
advertising AND teenagers
You will only get results containing all these words
advertising AND teenagers: AND narrows your search
Look at the results from your search, are they what you expected? Are they useful? Are they relevant? Could they be improved?
Using truncation is a quick and easy way of saving time. It allows you to search for words which begin with the same letters. Databases use different symbols for truncation, the most common is *
Advert* searches for advertising, adverts, advert, advertisements and advertisement
Cigar* will search for cigar, cigars, cigarette and cigarettes