Effective online searching

This resource will help you recognise the importance of keywords for your online search and provide some basic guidelines to identifying effective keywords.

Plan your search

It's helpful to plan how to research and find information on your topic before you start searching.

Learn how to find useful, relevant information using different search interfaces including Library SEARCH, Google and Library online databases.

Break down the question

With the assessment task question in front of you, ask yourself:

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • What else do I need to find out to answer the question?
  • What is the question asking me to do?
  • Do I understand all the words in the question?

Identify the right search terms

When selecting search words:

  • Start with the most obvious search words in your question. These may be single words (i.e., environment) or a phrase (i.e., "climate change").
  • Next think about alternative search words, such as synonyms, or related words (i.e., "global warming" instead of climate change).
  • Don't use instructional words (discuss, explain) or prepositions (to, of, for) in your search.

How to use Library SEARCH

This interactive tutorial (opens in new tab) shows you how to use Library SEARCH.

You'll learn how to:

  • identify relevant keywords from a research question
  • review and limit your results by source type
  • use more advanced options such as phrase searching and truncation to improve your results.

For more online searching help see our Finding information guide.

Search modifiers

Did you know that search engines like Google include more advanced search features to help you find information?

You can improve the relevance of your search results by using what's known as a phrase search.

For example, wrapping "marine conservation" inside quotes will search for the phrase instead of the individual words.

Another feature lets you confine your search words to a specific site or domain by prefixing your search with site:.

For example,

site:gov.au Limits to results from Australian government websites (use .gov for US government and nsw.gov.au, vic.gov.au etc for state governments)
site:edu.au Limits to results from Australian education and training provider websites (such as Universities)
site:org.au Limits to results from not-for-profit organisation websites

You can also limit your results by file type, such as PDFs, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations and find related and similar sites.

For example,

filetype:pdf Limits your search results to PDFs documents.
related:www.nature.org.au Finds other sites related or similar to www.nature.org.au.

 Learn how to search on Google.

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