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Second Year Success

Advanced writing and research skills for 2nd year success

Expectations: 1st year vs. 2nd year

Research Tools & Techniques

The skills and tools required for researching assignments become more demanding in your second year at university.

1st Year Expectations 2nd Year Expectations
Introductory research skills Advanced research skills
Locates assignment resources primarily using One Search Locates assignment resources using One Search PLUS recommended discipline-specific databases, e.g. Scopus, ProQuest, Informit

Introductory to advanced research skills

Before you can successfully search catalogues, databases and the Internet you will need to develop a good search strategy.

This involves the following steps:

  • Identify the keywords and synonyms for your assignment topic
  • Create an effective search string using boolean basics, truncation and phrase searching
  • Evaluate and refine results

Click across the tabs on this box to explore the basic building blocks of constructing a good search.

Before we begin searching, we need to make sure we have already come up with the appropriate keywords to use.  Keywords are identified when we unpack the question which form the main ideas and concepts for our research. 

Keywords will help us find the information we are looking for.  If you still have to come up with your keywords, head to Defining Your Topic module, to help you get started.



TIP:  Keep an eye out for new keywords once you begin searching.

Boolean Operators are the words AND, OR and NOT.  When these words are used between keywords in a search string, results are more relevant to your topic which will save you time.

Trucation is a way to efficiently broaden your searches and saves you time. 

To truncate a keyword is to remove the ending of the word and add an asterisk (*) in its place.  Be sure to end the word at the most appropriate place so to retrieve relevant and useful results. 

Educat* =











but also:



Tip: Be careful where you insert the asterisk (*)

undefinedToo soon in the word can retrieve irrelevant results

Too late in the word can miss useful results


Phrase searching is a powerful, easy to use tool that will save you time.

When keywords are a phrase (combination of two or more words), use "quotation" marks to lock them together.  This will ensure that the search results will find information related to those words combined, in that same order and not search for each word individually.

For example: 

  • "duty of care"
  • "code of conduct"
  • "global warming"


Search strings are a combination of your keywords, truncation and boolean operators.  An effective search string can save you time by returning accurate results faster.

Find quality information sources faster with databases

Discipline-Specific Databases

  • Build on your One Search results
  • Find more relevant/specific results faster
  • Often include additional features, e.g. save searches, thesauri, useful limits.

Example: Scopus Database

Scopus is JCU Library’s largest multidisciplinary abstract and citation database‚Äč. Special features include:

  • Tracks search history
  • Easily build searches
  • Follow research forwards and backwards
  • And, lots more…

Finding the best databases for your discipline

A library database is a collection of quality information that can be focused on a specific subject area or deal with general (multidisciplinary) sources. Databases hold articles that are accessible through a subscription purchased by the Library. This allows students to access reliable and relevant content at no charge.

The most useful databases for each subject area and are listed in your Subject Guide. Listed below are only a few of the databases however for a full list of accessible databases visit A-Z Databases. 

  Credo - Keywords and background info 

       CINAHL - Nursing & allied health       

                   ERIC - Education                   

             Informit - Multidisciplinary             

        Medline - Medicine & health care       

                 PsycInfo - Psychology               

               Scopus - Multidisciplinary            

                      All Databases                     

2nd year advanced search activities

Advanced searching activities (10min)

Thinking head image.



You need to find information for an assignment. Your topic is:

Evaluate the pros and cons of essay assessment in higher education.

You have decided to try out advanced searching in Scopus database to find your information sources.

Scopus refresher

Watch this video if you need a searching Scopus database refresher.

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