Library Search

Watch a video demonstration of how to search

Some techniques to help you get better search results

There are some techniques you can use to improve your online searches. The table below gives you a brief explanation. If you want more information, try the Database Searching guide.

Technique Symbol What does this symbol do?
Phrase "       "

This tells Library Search, databases and search engines to look for all of the words as a set in the exact order you've typed them.

Example: "interpersonal skills"

Truncation *

This will search for words with the same beginning but different endings.

Example: account* = account, accounts, accountant, accountants, accountancy, accountable, accountability, accounting ...

Wildcard ?

This is useful when you are searching for words with different spellings or unusual plurals. 


  • wom?n = women, woman
  • behavio?r = behaviour, behavior
Narrow your search AND

You can narrow the focus of your search by adding different concepts to the search. 

Example: "interpersonal skills" AND graduates 

Interpersonal skills is a broad area. You'll find a lot of books and articles. If you limit your search to only the ones that talk about graduates, it's a smaller number.

Expand your search


If you aren't finding a lot of results, you can increase them by adding extra terms for your key ideas. It will tell Library Search, databases, or search engines to look for any of the terms. This technique is often used in combination with Brackets.

Example: "job ready" OR "work ready" OR employable

Brackets (       )

Brackets are used to group all of the alternative words for each of your concepts. It's usually used in combination with OR so that Library Search, databases or search engines know which groups they all belong to.

Example: ("job ready" OR "work ready" OR employable) AND "interpersonal skills" AND graduates