When searching for a phrase, it's a good idea to put the phrase in quotation marks:
This will ensure that the words are searched next to each other, as a phrase.
Without the quotation marks, often databases will carry out the search as if you had combined them with AND, for example social AND media. This means the words might not be found next to each other:
IMPORTANT: Some databases will search for two words next to each other as a phrase by default. Notably, this is how searches on the Ovid platform are carried out. At UCL this includes databases such as Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO. Always check the help pages for the database you are using to ensure you understand how your search is carried out.
Make sure that you type the quotation marks into the search box, don't copy and paste from Word or the Web.
Truncation is a technique which can broaden your search, where your search term has a common root but multiple possible endings. correctly using truncation can help you to search more efficiently as it saves time.
Type the root of the word, followed by the truncation symbol. Most databases use the asterisk as the truncation symbol.
This will search for the different possible endings of the word.
Be careful not to truncate too early though as you may retrieve irrelevant results:
Use Boolean operators to combine your search terms together.
Use OR to combine different synonyms for the same subject, so that results which contain any of those synonyms are retrieved:
Use AND to combine different subjects, to ensure you only retrieve results where both subjects are covered:
Use NOT with caution. For example if you searched for teenager NOT adult, teenager NOT adult, you would not retrieve any results which talk about adults, but you would also not retrieve papers that discuss both teenagers and adults..
Often you might want to use a combination of search operators to construct a search. In this case, you would need to keep your concepts grouped together to ensure the search is carried out correctly:
These videos and guidance provide advice on general searching principles, but remember every database works a little differently so be sure to read the help pages for the database you are using. This way, you will know how the database processes the search terms and any techniques you have used.