Search tips

Quick Find is a great starting point to search for articles and books as well as items located in the Library.

We know from your feedback that it can be hard to find relevant results so we asked students to tell us their best tips for finding information.

Why use Quick Find?

"Using the library search engine is a great tool that some don't think to use."

Here is what some students have told us about Quick Find:

  • It's a good way to start your research, and can help you to refine and get what you are looking for.
  • Use it to get a general idea of your research topic, then focus your keywords to search more specific databases.
  • Some people will advise you to use specialised search tools but if you need journal articles (which you most certainly always will) Quick Find is more than sufficient.
  • For assignments I would definitely look to specific databases for finding reliable information. However Quick Find is more useful for books. I use it as a first port of call to look for ebooks to save a trip to the library.
  • I usually do a general google search to understand a topic, then to write about it academically, I look for specific information - first using google scholar, and then Quick Find.

You might also like to check out:

How to get relevant results?

Search terms are important

"Use different words or terms. Don't just do one search and give up because you didn't find the information you needed. Get creative."

Check out more great tips from students about how they choose their search terms:

  • Use key words, not long phrases and don't dump the whole question in.
  • Use trial and error - change your search terms, use synonyms.
  • Use "quotation marks" if you are looking for a particular phrase.
  • If you find a relevant document use the subject terms or keywords it uses.
  • Use recommended readings to come up with search terms.
  • Look through search results to find new words or subjects to use.

Use filters

"Refine your search in the bar to the left of the page. This way you can discard sources you don't want to find"

Quick Find offers an extensive filtering menu on the left of the search screen. See what filters students find the most useful:

  • Peer-reviewed only - limit results to peer-reviewed articles
  • Publication date - use to find current research. Try the last 12 months, 3 years or 5 years option or choose your own using the date slider.
  • Limit by study area - quickly filter out results from other disciplines - "there are many words that can overlap a number of fields, and unless you're quite strictly wording it, in searching you will turn up many irrelevant results."
  • Select a format - just looking for books or only need articles? Choose the format that best suits you.

Just want to find books in the Library? Click "Select a Library location (limit to hardcopy)" and select the locations you want.

Use advanced search

"I would let students know to always use the advanced search, as it really narrows down the different options and makes it easier to find specific information."

Some students prefer to use the advanced search to narrow results. There are a lot of options you can use to narrow down a search such as:

  • Title - use to find a specific article or book title
  • Author name - for finding information by a specific author
  • Publication title - use to find a particular journal or magazine (or use in combination with the Title field to find articles from a particular journal or magazine)
  • Subject terms - use to find information on a particular subject (or to find results that match a specific subject term)
  • Abstract - for finding your search terms in the abstract or summary only - usually this will provide more relevant results compared to searching for these words in the entire article or book
  • Fulltext - for finding your search terms in the entire article or book. Doesn't always find relevant results unless your search terms are specialised or niche.

Use the reference lists of good articles

"If you find a really good article, always scour the reference list for good leads onto other articles"

There are two great ways to find relevant articles. When you find a really good article:

  1. check out that article's reference list - remember these articles will be a little older!
  2. find what other articles cite this one - an easy way to do this is to look for the 'Web of Science' icon in the search results and click on the number in the box. This will take you to a list of all the citing articles. Plus they will be more up to date!

Can I use Boolean, wildcards and truncation?

Yes it is possible, but you will usually get better results using filters or advanced search. Quick Find has automatic functionality to help improve search results (such as word stemming, synonym mapping and including alternate spellings of common words).

Boolean operators

Use the operators AND, OR and NOT (must be written in ALL CAPS), e.g. Joss Whedon AND firefly AND buffy

Wildcards and truncation

Use these if your search term has multiple spellings or various endings:

  • question mark (?) to match any one character, e.g. a search for "wom?n" will find the terms "woman" or "women".
  • asterisk (*) to match one or more characters within or at the end of a word, e.g. a search for "child*" will find the terms "children", "childhood" and "childs". A search for "ch*ter" will match "charter", "character" and "chapter".

Note: if you use wildcards and truncation you lose the benefit of Quick Find's automatic stemming and inclusion of common alternate spellings.