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Plant Pathology: Searching tips

This guide is intended to help students studying plant pathology with basic library skills and how to use information resources

How it all works

When we search, we just put our keywords into a search engine in a database and it gives us back the answer. This is easy with everyday concepts that can't get confused - such as how many ml are in a liter. But academic concepts are more complicated, and can often be grey areas with searching. So understanding HOW to search is key to making sure you don't miss any vital information.

Simply take your topic and break it down into keywords:

eg. The effect of listeriosis outbreak in South Africa on the red meat industry

You can see how many words are irrelevant to our search above - we only need to use the highlighted keywords and combine them with Boolean operators:

effect AND listeriosis AND "South Africa" AND "red meat"

We also need to consider words that might have the same meaning - for example I can use either the word 'effect' OR the word 'impact':

(effect OR impact) AND listeriosis AND "South Africa" AND "red meat"

I can also look for specific types of meat as articles might not mention the words "red meat" but they might speak about 'beef' or 'pork':

(effect OR impact) AND listeriosis AND "South Africa" AND ("red meat" OR beef OR pork)

Similarly, 'listeriosis' can also be 'listeria'. Here I can use an asterisk as that will help point the search engine to the root of the word, making it search for both 'listeriosis' and 'listeria' together:

(effect OR impact) AND listeri* AND "South Africa" AND ("red meat" OR beef OR pork)

So you can see from this example how a good search strategy will make sure you don't miss anything - and now that I have this, I can copy and paste it across into multiple databases. Although Google Scholar is a great starting point, it does not have access to ALL our databases, and if you don't use more than one database you run a very high risk of excluding very important research on your topic!

To see how Boolean Operators work , check out the infographic:

More help!

For more help, consult the Step-by-Step guide!

Not sure how to get started with your search strings?

The Literature Search Strategy guide can help!

Hack your search on any search engine

Boolean operators