Identify keywords

Identify the main topics or concepts in your task. Use these techniques to help you retrieve the best search results.

Identify related words

Maximise your search results by including alternative words for your keywords, such as different spellings and synonyms. Use a thesaurus or dictionary to help identify these.


  • adolescent also use teenager, young people and young adult
  • well-being also use wellbeing.

Search for phrases

You can place double quotation marks around two or more words to retrieve results with only that exact phrase.


  • "social media"
  • "students with disabilities"

Find multiple word endings

Use the truncation symbol when searching to replace the ending of a keyword. This symbol is usually an asterisk (*), but check the help in your search tool. Add the symbol to the end of a word to return variations of that word.


  • teen* will find teen, teens, teenager and teenaged
  • Australia* will find Australia, Australian, Australians.

Use wildcards

A wildcard is a symbol to replace a single character anywhere in a word to find alternative spellings, such as American variations. The wildcard symbol is usually a question mark (?).


  • organi?ation finds both organisation and organization
  • behavio?r finds both behavior and behaviour.

Create a search statement

Join your keywords together using Boolean operators to create a search statement that effectively searches your preferred search tool.

Boolean operators are words that are used to combine or exclude keywords in a search statement. These words must be capitalised to be recognised by the Library catalogue and some databases.

The Boolean operators are:

  • AND—narrows search results, finds both search terms.
  • OR—widens search results, finds either or both search terms. Put keywords separated by OR in parentheses.
  • NOT—narrows search results, excludes search terms. Use NOT sparingly to avoid excluding relevant results.

You can create simple and complex searches using keywords, phrases, truncation, wildcards and Boolean operators.

Example search statements
“social media” AND (well-being OR wellbeing) AND (adolescent OR teen*)
(“social media” OR Facebook OR Twitter) AND “mental health”
"Leonardo da Vinci" AND (draw* OR sketch)
"social media" AND communication NOT marketing

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