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General search techniques

Databases and search engines often offer additional ways to search for better results: a good balance between completeness and relevance.

Contact the information specialists in your field of research for more information:

Science
Humanities
Management Sciences
Medical Sciences
Law
Social Sciences

General search techniques that can be used in most databases and search engines are briefly described below.

Subject headings
In various databases, subject headings are assigned to publications. These concisely describe what the publication is about. The subject headings make it possible to search for a topic.

Fillers
Fillers are words that are common, but not important for a search. Examples of these are determiners and prepositions.

Combining search terms
Combining multiple topics in one search can be done with Boolean operators. The main operators are AND, OR and NOT:

boolean operators

AND
All specified terms must appear in the search result.
OR
One, or both, of the specified terms must appear in the search result.
NOT
The specified term must not appear in the search result.

Nesting terms
With more complex searches, it can be efficient to nest search terms using brackets.
Example: swallow AND (spring OR summer)

Phrase searching
Double quotes around a phrase ("...") indicate that the specified search terms must be side by side in this exact order.
Examples: "elementary education", "social media"

Proximity operators (NEAR, NEXT, ADJ)
In some databases, the distance (the number of words) between two search terms can be chosen, so that variations of compound terms are also found.
Example: information ADJ3 retrieval searches for any combination of these words in phrases with a maximum of 3 words in between, such as retrieval of relevant scientific information

Truncating words
Breaking off search terms is called 'truncating'. The "truncation mark" replaces a part of the word and makes it for instance possible to search for singular and plural at the same time.
Example: gene* searches: gene, genes, genetics, generation

Masking
A special character, also called wildcard or joker, can replace one or more letters / numbers in spelling variations.
Examples: wom#n, organi#ation, behavio#r

Search fields
Advanced search is designed to search in fields, such as title words, or author name. By using multiple search fields at the same time, the search results are lesser but more relevant.