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.

Health Postgraduate Introductory Library Modules: Module 3 - Advanced topic searching

Health Postgraduate Library Modules

Introduction to Searching Skills

Module 3 - Advanced Topic Searching

  This module is divided into 4 sections


       Prepare                                    How to begin and plan your search strategy.


       Run Run icon                                          How to put your search strategy to work. 


       Review review icon & Revise Revise icon          Not getting the results? Adjust your search strategy.                               


       Access                                       How to get into those useful resources.

Prepare 3

We have now covered searching for a known title and searching for resources on a specific topic. 

When it comes to your assignments you will need to search using both these skills and more. 

Answering a question can also involve finding resources and information on more than one topic, or even require investigation into the relationships between certain topics.


When searching for information on a concept we need to consider the key words associated with that concept. During the brainstorming phase, thinking of synonyms for concepts will help you establish a list of keywords that you can use in your search. Using multiple keywords ensures you capture the range of words that authors may have used to describe a concept.

You can download the Search Planner and fill this out using your concepts. This will help you see how the concepts and key words relate to each other.


OR is used to find any of the key words.- adolescents OR teens

AND is used to find ALL of the words.- diabetes AND adolescents


OR & AND are called Boolean operators.  They work as tools within the search engine to determine how the different elements of your question are combined.


Searching shortcuts

Truncation can be very useful if a word has a number of different endings that can apply. 

We use the asterisk in place of the endings. 

For example: Diabet* instead of: Diabetic, or Diabetes, 

TIP: Be careful with your use of truncation as you can get many irrelevant results if you only truncate after a few letters. For example if you were looking for articles about caring or care you can't truncate to car* as you would get results that included cardio, carbohydrate, career etc. Instead you would need to type in the whole words e.g. caring or care.


Wild cards are used when there are alternative spellings for a word. 

We use the question mark symbol in place of the alternate letter. 

For example: Wom?n instead of: Women or Woman

                        Immuni?ation instead of: Immunisation or Immunization


Phrase Searching this is how we keep words together in a specific phrase rather than searching the individual words separately throughout an article. 

We use quotation marks on either side of the words to keep them together in that order. 

For example: "health promotion" instead of health promotion.


Below is a screenshot that shows an example of how you would type in any of the shortcuts.

   screenshot of search with diabet* AND wom?n AND "health promotion"                                                                                                                                                                              

TIP: For more information go to the planning your search page. 


Run 3

When we want to take our searching further we may use one of the many databases from the Library. 

If you want some guidance on selecting an appropriate database, go to the resource guides. 

TIP: In the Library Health guide, go to finding articles tab to see recommended databases. 

Let's try the database MEDLINE Complete via EBSCOhost.

Video         Searching MEDLINE Complete (4 minutes and 21 seconds)

The video will go through selecting Medline Complete from the Health library resource guide and then searching the database using all of the concepts and keywords from Alfie's search.



Alfie smiling   Alfie has run a search in the MEDLINE Complete database on the topic of interventions for adolescents with diabetes.

Alfie has come up with some similar words for her concepts of interventions; adolescents; diabetes. She has also applied any shortcuts.


First Search box:       intervention* OR training OR educat* OR medication*


Second Search box:  adolescen* OR teen* OR youth* OR "young adult*"


Third Search box:     diabet* OR "sugar disease"


medline search with all of the search terms



Alfie confused    Alfie's search has returned too many results!

The topic asked for current interventions so to reduce the number of results you can change the publication date limit on the left hand side of the search results page to only include 'current' articles. 

For this example we have limited to the last 5 years. Eg. 2013 to 2018

limit to publication date 2013 to 2018

Well done!

Alfie very happy and smiling   Alfie now has results that match her topic and she can start looking at the results.

Review  & Revise  3

So you have run your search and applied the searching tricks and strategies. You have added in limitations and have run your search... 

BUT.. you still are not getting back the results from the search that you expected! 

Alfie unhappy

It is time to review and revise!

This section will discuss the different aspects of your search that you can look at and improve. 


Alfie has got zero results from this MEDLINE Complete database search and is not sure why? 

This is Alfie's search strategy:

 intervention* AND training AND educat* AND medication*


 adolescen* AND teen* AND youth* AND "young adult*"


 diabet* AND "sugar disease"


screenshot of Alfie's search

In reviewing the search strategy Alfie should check the following:

  • Spelling; have you spelt the key words correctly.
  • The use of truncation, wild cards and phrase search quotation marks; is this done correctly.
  • Boolean operators – AND, OR... check...have these been applied appropriately.
  • Are the results relevant. Or is the search too specific or are the terms too broad.


TIP: If you still get too many results, you may need to add another concept. 

For example: select the plus 'Add a Row' symbol and in the search box type Australia* and select AB Abstract from the Select a field drop down menu.
The default fields searched in EBSCOhost databases include the Author's address information. To find articles about Australia and not just written by Australian authors you can search within the Abstract field only for the word Australia*.

screenshot of Australia* and AB Abstract field


Access 3


Alfie smiling   Well done, hopefully you and Alfie have found some useful results. 

We will now show you how to access them.

The full text is the complete article and not just an abstract or summary of the article. It provides you with all of the information about the study or research.

  •  Look at your results list. You may notice that some have an HTML Full Text or PDF Full Text option. The HTML full text option is just the text of the article displayed on the page and is good for reading online. The PDF full text option is the copy of the article taken from the journal and is displayed in the same format as the original article and is the best option for printing or downloading and reading later. 

HTML Full Text PDF Full Text links

  •  Choose the option that best suits you.


  • You can now send a copy to yourself by clicking the Email icon (on the right of the screen). This is useful for keeping track of the article.
    screenshot of email icon on right side of screen

  • Type in an email address (it doesn't have to be your Deakin one) and select Send.

email option

When it arrives in your inbox the HTML text will appear in the body of your email and the PDF will be sent as a separate attachment.


  • Full text isn't available? Don’t forget that you can select the FIND IT @ DEAKIN button.
    Find it @ Deakin
    Scroll down to the Get full text options and then follow the full text link.

TIP: Sometimes there is more than one full text link. Always start with the first link and if it doesn't work try the others. If there are no full text links or they don't work then try the Deakin University Library Catalogue link and navigate by the journal title then year, volume and issue to find the article.

Find it @ Deakin image with Get full text options

Make sure you either email or download a copy of the article – the links at the top of the page are not permanent and you can’t navigate back to them by bookmarking.



EndNote is a type of reference management software that can help you reference appropriately. You still need to understand how to reference correctly as EndNote can be wrong.


TIP: As a Deakin student you can download EndNote from the Deakin Software library

The software is available for both Mac and Windows computers.

For more detailed instructions on using EndNote go to the EndNote resource guide.

Searching for Government Reports & Webpages

What if you need to find government reports and webpages?

If you’re after a government report, you can use Google to do this.

From the Google Advanced Search screen you can type in your search terms:

all these words: diabetes intervention  (this will AND your search terms)

any of these words: adolescent teen youth "young adult" (this will OR your search terms)

You can then scroll down to the field that states 'site or domain' and add in

screenshot of google advanced search

TIP: You can use double quote marks for phrases in Google but not the truncation * or wildcard ? symbols.


The resulting pages will be Australian government based.

screenshot of google advanced search results

You can also type in a specific web site e.g. or

The following link will provide more help for complex Google searching.


How did you go?

These skills helped Alfie complete her assignment question!

How do you feel about applying them to your own?

Alfie looking very happy

How did you go? 

Success! You have completed Module 3

You should now be confident in how to complete a search for information on combined topics.     

         Module 1 Finding a known itemModule 2 Basic topic searching Module 3 Advanced topic searching

      Still have questions? Email the Health Liaison Librarians at