Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
  • Library AND Information Service

Psychology: Search tips

Search tips

Usually, when searching for information, more than one keyword is required. To combine keywords, use one of these:

AND; OR; NOT

AND: All the keywords will be present in the result list. AND usually limits the search results

For example:  Internet AND “political participation” AND democracy

OR : Any of the keywords used will be present. It broadens your results by connecting two or more synonyms.

 For example:  “social media” OR facebook OR instagram

NOT: if you want to exclude a keyword from your result list. NOT may exclude relevant findings from the result list.

For example: "social media" NOT blogs

Quotation marks “…….”

two or more words that form a single concept/phrase

For example “South Africa”   

                       “attention deficit disorder”

Truncation *

Use truncation for words with the same stem

For example: work* = work, works, worker, working, etc.

Parentheses / Brackets

Eg (cars OR motors OR busses) AND driving

The results will contain driving and either or all of the words cars OR  motors OR busses

Wildcarts

Use a symbol for one letter of a word

Example:

behavio?r = behaviour or behavior

Colo!r = color OR colour

 

For example: See keyword search strings below:

(social media OR INTERNET OR TWITTER OR FACEBOOK OR INSTAGRAM) AND (“CIVIC ATTITUDES” OR “CIVIC VALUES” OR VALUE* OR ATTITUDE* OR “POLITICAL BEHAVIOUR” OR “POLTICAL BAHAVIOR“ OR “POLITICAL PARTICIPATION” OR PARTICIPATION) AND (DEMOCRAC* OR E-DEMOCRACY)

(“HIGH CONFLICT COUPLES” OR “LOWER INCOME” OR “LOW INCOME” OR LIC )  AND (EFFECT OR SYMPTOM* AND ANXIETY OR “ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER”)  AND CHILDREN

FATIGUE AND FIBROMYALGIA AND ("LIVED EXPERIENCE" OR EXPERIENCE*) AND (FAMILY OR PARENTS)

Building a searchstring

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 social media  on political behaviour in a democratic society.

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:

Social media AND political behaviour AND democracy

We also need to consider words that might have the same meaning - for example I can use either the word social media OR Internet OR Twitter

(social media OR Internet OR Twitter OR Facebook OR Instagram) AND political behaviour and democracy

Political behaviour can also be Political behaviour OR Civil attitudes OR “civil behavio?r” OR attitude OR “political participation” OR participation

NB!  all the OR's have to be within the brackets:   () AND () AND ()

(social media OR Internet OR twitter OR facebook OR Instagram) AND (“Civic attitudes” OR “civic values” OR value* OR attitude * OR “political behaviour” OR “political behavior“ OR “Political participation” OR participation)

Similarly, democracy can also be democratic or democracies. 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 'democracy' and 'democratic' together:

AND (DEMOCRAC* OR E-DEMOCRAC*)

So you can see from this example how a good search strategy will make sure you don't miss anything - and now that you have this, you 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!

FOR EXAMPLE this searchstring can be copied into databases

(social media OR Internet OR twitter OR facebook OR Instagram) AND (“Civic attitudes” OR “civic values” OR value* OR attitude * OR “political behaviour” OR “political behavior“ OR “Political participation” OR participation) AND (democrac* OR E-democrac*)