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Find, access and use information effectively: a step-by-step guide: Search Strategy

Find, access and use information effectively: a step-by-step guide

Search strategy

Search strategies

In order to retrieve the most relevant results, you will need to construct a search string. A search string is a combination of keywords, truncation symbols, and boolean operators you enter into the search box of an electronic library resource or an Internet search engine.

Search strategy guides

our basic types of search strategies

1. Search strategy ABC

2. Building blocks

3. Pearl growing (snow-balling)



Consult the search strategy worksheet to learn more.

These strategies and parts of the guides are posted with permission of Elsevier.


SUNSearch, a Stellenbosch-specific search engine for peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and scholarly literature from all areas of research, indexed in most cases not by full text.

Google Scholar search tips

Search strategies and tips for Google and Google Sholar. Attend one of the Google and Google Scholar workshops to learn more. Consult the training programme for more information.

Training programme

The Library and Information Service offers a wide range of group training sessions with the main focus on enhancing the information literacy skills of all students at Stellenbosch University. Book a specific training session or consult the undergraduate or postgraduate training programme to see a list of all training sessions available for specific target groups.

Search strategy builder


Use the "Search strategy builder" to help you create a search string, using Boolean logic. You can cut and paste the results into most databases’ search boxes. If you cannot find items on your topic, contact your supervisor or faculty librarian.

Boolean Operators

Boolean searching is the traditional way to search for information in most online databases and on the Internet.
Boolean operators, or connector words, such as AND, OR, and NOT, are used to create phrases and concepts based on specific rules of search logic. Use the Boolean machine to help with your search string.

Truncation/Wildcard Symbols

Truncation or wildcard symbols can broaden your search and allow you to look for variations of words. For example, searching on sport* would bring up variations such as sport, sports, sporting, sporty, etc.

Note: The truncation symbol varies depending on the electronic resource you are searching. For more information, consult the Help page of the database or Remedies for when you find too little or too much information in the box below.