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Search Smarter: Finding Information in Science and Engineering: Step 4: Search Strategy

What is a search strategy?

How will you combine your keywords and synonyms?

Start small using one or two keywords, then combine the results from separate searches at the end:

 1. Combine keywords using AND (this is automatic in many databases). 

      This narrows your search and finds fewer results


2. Add synonyms using OR

      This broadens your search and finds more results


3. Consider using truncation symbols such as * or ?

      This allows you to search for words with the same stem so that plurals and other variations are included, ie. grass* also finds grasses.

Search smarter, search faster

Example assignment question

Discuss the impact of climate change on Australian ecosystems.

This single search expression could be used to c
ombine three keywords:

("global warming" OR "greenhouse effect" OR "climate change")  AND (ecosystem* or environ*)  AND austral*

 Using brackets keeps your synonyms in a group together.


Alternatively, you could do three separate searches and then combine them:

 Search 1: "global warming" OR "greenhouse effect" OR "climate change"

 Search 2:  ecosystem* OR environ* 

 Search 3: australia*

 Search 4: Search 1 AND Search 2 AND Search 3


Tip: Check the help or search tips screens to identify how your chosen database allows these searches to be performed

Search strategy worksheet

Below is a worksheet to help you record your search strategies.

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