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New students' guide to the library

New to Federation University? This guide outlines the library's services and resources


This page has some useful tips and tricks on how to find and evaluate your information. 

Subject-specific guides will have more information and guidance on searching, with some useful interactive forms such as the Search Builder. The Search Builder steps you through constructing a search with keywords, synonyms and Boolean operators (which are explained just below).

If you need more help you can call us, email us, chat with us, call us on the phone, or just drop in to see us.


Knowing your keywords is important. Before you can use techniques for effective searching (such as the Boolean Operators ANDOR, and NOT), you need to know what your search terms will be. To do this, you must find appropriate keywords. The first step is to identify the key concepts for your topic. For example:

TOPIC: Discuss the integration of the arts into primary school classrooms.

The basic keywords for your search might then be be arts and primary school.

Then, you would need to look at the synonyms that you could use in your search. For example, as well as primary school you could use the terms elementary schoolgrade school, or junior school.

By gathering a good list of search terms, you will be able to find a greater number of resources relating to your topic.

Hints for more effective searching

The aim of good searching is to get a manageable list of relevant results so you’re not wasting time sifting through pages of irrelevant information. Here are some techniques you can use to specify exactly what you’re looking for:

Link terms with AND Search for articles that include all of the terms entered - required by many database search engines. E.g. business AND consumers AND ethics
Link terms with OR Search for articles that include at least one of the terms entered; often used for alternative term. E.g. elderly OR aged
Link terms with NOT Exclude the irrelevant term from the search results. E.g. photography NOT digital

You should use NOT selectively so it doesn't hinter your results

Truncation * Search for variations of a word by shortening it to its root. E.g. teach* searches for teach, teacher, teaching, teaches
"Phrase searching" Form a single concept made up of multiple words using quotation marks – very effective when searching the Internet. E.g. "Australian Institute of Sport" will have very different results to Australian and institute and sport

Combining your keywords and concepts using these techniques creates a very refined search statement, a bit like an algebraic equation, e.g.

“health care” AND nurs* AND (aged OR elderly) NOT dementia

Managing your information

Once you have found and evaluated your information, you'll need to manage it somehow. It's a good idea to record citations as soon as you find them. Develop a system for recording and keeping track of your references, print and online, so that you have all the necessary information when you need to create your bibliography or reference list. Having to backtrack to find missing details is a real hassle and time waster.

You may find it useful to use EndNote Web, a Web-based program that stores your references and automatically generates a bibliography in the required citation style. The EndNote Web subject guide has more information on EndNote Web.

You have an ethical and legal responsibility to acknowledge all information sources used, whether quoting or paraphrasing. FedCite is the definitive guide to assist you with referencing.