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Finding information

Information to help you find books, articles and more to help you with your studies and research.

Search techniques

  • This video is designed to give you tips for searching Manchester Metropolitan University Library's resources more effectively. You should use it in conjunction with individual resource videos.
  • If we take this example question: Plagiarism is becoming more common in higher education. Discuss. Firstly, identify the key search terms within the question: In this example, the key terms are Plagiarism and higher education. Then, the easiest way to start searching is to type one of your key terms, for example, plagiarism, into the resource you’re using.
  • Typing in the exact word will only search for the word Plagiarism, it won’t search for related words such as plagiarist and plagiarising. To broaden your search to include the different word endings and spelling variations you should use truncation. By placing an asterisk after the stem of the word, in this case, after the second I in plagiarism, the resource will look for all of the different word endings and spelling variants simultaneously. Please note that whilst an asterisk is the most commonly used truncation symbol, some resources vary. Check the help feature of the resource you are searching, to identify its truncation symbol.
  • We can also use the wildcard. This is where you put an asterisk in place of a particular letter. In this case, we’re able to find, simultaneously, both English and American spellings of particular words. Please note that both the asterisk (*) and question mark (?) are common truncation symbols but there is no standard among all databases. Always check the help option of the particular database you are using.
  • Going back to the example question, we will also see that we need to look for the phrase “higher education”.
  • By simply typing the words higher education into a resource, many databases will look for the terms separately.  By placing quotation marks around multiple terms, you are employing phrase searching. This will ensure that the words will be found next to each other, making your search more specific. Remember to only use quotation marks around actual phrases.
  • We can also use AND to further narrow down our search, locating only those articles where ALL of our search terms appear. As you can see on the screen, by using the word AND we will only obtain those articles covered by the shaded circle, ie only those articles that include both of our search terms. Many resources, such as Library Search and Google automatically carry out this function, but not all.
  • Use OR to broaden out a search to find items where any of the keywords appear. In this example every article featuring either of our search terms would appear.
  • These techniques can be applied to most of the Library’s resources.  For more help and information, please ask a member of staff in the Library or visit the Library website.
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Searching effectively