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Business: Using the Library to Support your Dissertation/Project: Searching Effectively


Once you have identified your keywords and the key databases/resources you are going to search you wil need to carry out your search.  If you are searching either library search or Individual databases there are two main ways to search; basic or advanced.  This page covers how to carry out advanced searching and putting your search terms effectively, inlcuding Boolean operators.   

AND, OR and NOT are called Boolean operators.
They help connect your keywords/phrases together and narrow down your search.
In library search (and many databases), the AND, OR and NOT options are included within the advanced search screen. The results will group your phrases into brackets.

Putting your search terms together

Searching with AND ensures that all search terms are present in your results. This is useful when you are searching for something specific.

Some search engines, like Google, automatically assume you are searching with AND. However, many library databases require you to specify how you want to search so it's good practice to use it.



Searching for mentoring AND coaching will find results which contain both keywords.  number of results to 64265.

There may be multiple ways of saying the keyword/phrase you want to search for. By using OR to include alternatives you may find more results.


If you search for the keywords coaching OR mentoring you will retrieve results which contain either terms. 

If you are combining Boolean operators (see below) you will need to include a set of brackets around your OR selections:
leadership  AND ((mentoring) OR (coaching) OR (training))

NOT is an operator which is used to exclude words from a search. You can force your search to ignore common results relating to your topic.



Mentoring NOT coaching will retrieve results which do not include the word coaching. 

Use NOT sparingly.  If you suggest a common word to exclude, you may find your results become too limited and miss some important research.  

Advanced Searching

Using the Advanced Search option in either Library Search or an individual database allows you to refine your search so you can retrieve more relevant results. 

You can combine your search terms using AND, OR and NOT.  

When searching in the Advanced search in Library Search selecting the “All Fields” tab allows you to select where your keyword will appear. For example you can limit by abstract or title.

In the example below, the search results will only find those keywords in the abstract (or summary) of the item.

an abstract search

You can also refine your search by limiting by date, content type such as limiting to journal articles or by peer review/scholarly resources. 

Stop words

Stop words are the most common words which you'll find in each language. When you search for a stop word, most databases will ignore them during a basic keyword search.

These are just some the words ignored by Library Search: 

A  Are  Few  He

I  Itself  Me  No

Of  She  The  What

If these words are crucial to the meaning of your search, you will need to use quotation marks " " to force the database/search engine to use them.

Here is a list of stop words from multiple languages.


If you search for man of the year, Library Search will ignore the words "of" and "the", meaning it will find any publications mentioning both "man" AND "year".

If you search for "man of the year" with quotations, it will find that exact phrase, including "of" and "the" in that order.

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