Flinders University Library
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Search Strategies

Useful search tips for advanced searching

Evaluating your search results

The search process is rarely linear but rather tends to be iterative. You may have to search several library tools such as FindIt@Flinders, Library Research Databases and maybe Google to complete a research task. Experienced searchers tend to evaluate the results after each search in case adjustments to the strategy is required. Pay attention to the:

  • number of records returned
  • position and frequency of keywords
  • inclusion of unintended results
  • type of material
  • level of writing - is it too complex/ not academic?
  • relevance

Things to consider when evaluating a search

Too many results

  • Use AND operators in your search to link key concepts
  • Use NOT operators to remove any common, but irrelevant, terms from your search.
  • Use of facets or search limits to limit the scope of the results returned. For example, most databases allow you to limit results to those published within a timeframe you set. Check the help section of the specific database for tips.

Too few results

  • Use OR operators to link synonyms for keywords.
  • Think of more synonyms for your keywords.
  • Use truncation and wildcards to include results with alternative word endings or spellings.
  • Check the spelling of your keywords.
  • There may just be very little published on your given topic.

Once you have a manageable list of search results, it is important to evaluate them to ensure you have the most relevant and useful resources for your assignment: just because you get a hit doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be useful.


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