Constructing a search strategy

How will you get the best results from your search? Searching for articles is more than just entering key words.

Boolean searching

When searching databases, keywords are linked together with Boolean operators, creating logical relationships between the terms. In this way, you can tailor your search results, by specifying relevant terms and excluding irrelevant terms.

OperatorDescription and example
ANDSearch for articles that include all terms entered
e.g. nursing AND midwifery AND Australia
ORSearch for articles that feature at least one of the alternative terms entered
e.g. training OR teaching OR education
NOTExclude the irrelevant term from the search results
e.g. teenage AND pregnancy NOT prevention


You can search for variations of a word by shortening a word to its root and replacing the remaining letters with an asterisk (*).


  • the following search for exercis* looks for exercise, exercises, exercising
  • the following search for program* looks for program, programming, programs

Combining these operators creates a very refined search, like an algebraic equation, e.g. exercis* and program* and rehabilitation.

Keyword 1

Keyword 2

Keyword 3




Phrase searching

If a key term is made up of more than one word, link them together as a single concept using quotation marks

e.g. "Australian Institute of Sport" is more refined than Australian AND institute AND sport.

Phrase searching can make a huge difference when searching on the internet.

Putting it all together

These tools can be combined to construct a very specific search

e.g. "health care" AND nurs* AND (aged OR elderly) NOT dementia.