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Searching information

Choosing search techniques

Once you have found useful information sources for your subject and determined which search terms to use, you have to consider how to make your information search more effective by using various techniques.

Various information search techniques

Boolean operators

Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT are used to combine search terms. They are included in many databases. 


The AND operator searches for documents including ALL search terms given.

"renewable energy" AND attitudes


The OR operator searches for documents including one or several search terms given. Usually, OR is used to combine synonyms.

green OR renewable OR sustainable


The NOT operator excludes references to the search term given. Be careful when using the NOT operator, there is a risk of missing relevant references!

"social media" NOT Facebook


Combining multiple operators

You can also use several Boolean operators in the same search statement. Parentheses () are always used to separate different operators from each other within the same search statement. The search engine will first read the statements inside the parentheses and then combine them together with the Boolean operator. The search statement inside the parentheses should work as a search on its own as well, and it can include phrases.

Example: You are searching for literature on the politics of renewable energy
("renewable natural resources" OR "renewable energy sources" OR bioeconomy) AND (“energy policy” OR “environment policy”)
This search statement will return hits including at least one of the terms "renewable natural resources", "renewable energy sources" or "bioeconomy" and also one of the terms "energy policy" or "environment policy".


Phrase search

Phrase search is used to search for concepts that consist of two or more words. By adding quotation marks around the phrase, you will get search results that include the words in that exact order. Also hyphenated words are considered as phrases but longer sentences are not because search engines do not understand them.

Examples of phrase search in search statements:
"social media" AND Facebook
"human resource management" AND "remote management"


By truncating the search term, you can search various word endings and spellings. The most common truncation symbols are, depending on the database, * or ?. Always check the database's own instructions for the correct symbol.

Examples of truncation:
sourc* > source, sources, sourcing
journalis? > journalist, journalism

Wildcard symbols

By using wildcard symbols, you can replace one or several characters/letters in the search term. The wildcard symbol is convenient for search terms that can be spelled in several ways. Wildcard symbols vary from database to database, always check the instructions.

Examples of wildcard symbols:
colo?r > color, colour
organi?ation > organization, organisation

Stages of information searching

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