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HDR Literature Review Plan

Common search techniques

Phrase searching

Phrase searching narrows a search to show results that contain an exact phrase.

This is useful when you want to search for a certain string of words.

To conduct a phrase search, add double quote marks around two or more words you want to search for.

For example, searching for "human capital" will only return records that contain this exact term.  The search will not return results where the word "human" or "capital" appear separately.

Truncation and wildcard searching

Truncation and wildcard searching broadens a search to show results that include words with variant endings or spellings.

To conduct a truncation search, use an asterisk character * to indicate where the variant ending starts.

For example, searching for teach* will return records that contain any of these words:  teach, teaching, teacher, teachers.

Wildcard searching, using the symbol '?", is useful for words that have slight differences in spelling e.g. 'women' and 'woman', 'organisation' and 'organization'.  Insert the ? to replace the variant letter to retrieve both versions of a word, e.g. wom?n; organi?ation.


Authors will often use different terms to describe the same concepts.  It's a good idea to include as many alternative terms, or synonyms in your search.

e.g. youth, teenager or adolescent; social media or social networks


Include both singular and plural versions of words

e.g. policy or policies

Variant spelling

Consider American and English spellings of words

e.g. organisation or organization


Acronyms for organisations or a particular concept may need to be written out in full or use both in your search

e.g. WHO or World Health Organization

Broader terms

Using broader terms can extend your results if you're not getting many results.

e.g. social media or mass media

Narrower terms

If you results aren't relevant enough try more specific or narrower terms

e.g. Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

Boolean operators AND / OR / NOT

Boolean operators are a way of combining your search terms to either broaden or narrow search results.  See step 4 on this page for more detail.