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April 24, 2020

Make the most of the library search box

While the on-campus library collection is restricted, it’s more important than ever to know our favourite tips for using library search to find digital resources. If you’re looking for electronic resources related to your topic, follow these simple steps to narrow your search to specific formats.

Step #1: Enter your search terms

Keep in mind: when you type in a keyword, the database will search only that word. For instance, if you are looking for articles related to teenagers and search for ‘teenagers’ only, you are likely to miss articles that used the terms ‘adolescents’ or ‘youths’. Try a few synonyms ( can come in handy for this!) before you move on to new search terms.

Once you’ve entered your keywords, click ‘Search’.

Step #2: Navigate to ‘Source Types’ in the sidebar

On the results page, you’ll find a sidebar with filters that allow you to clarify your search.

source types sidebar screenshot

The Source Types section shows all the formats in the library collection that match your search term. Click ‘Show More’ to see all the options.

Step #3: Tick the boxes for ‘Electronic Resources’ and ‘eBooks’

source type tick boxes screenshot

You might also choose ‘Video’ and ‘Audio’ if relevant. Once you’re happy with your choices, click the button to update your search results.

Step #4: Browse your new search results

If you need to narrow or expand your results, try some of our other recommended search hacks to find what you need:

Phrase searching

If you only want results that turn up two or more words together, such as climate change or global warming, try putting those words together in double quote marks (e.g. “climate change”; “global warming”).

Find variations of a word

There are many words that could be relevant to your search in a variety of forms, such as:

You can search for all variations of a word by adding an asterisk (*) to the end of the word where the different word form would begin (in this case, adolescen*). The database will then search for all variations.

If you want to search for a word that has a known alternative spelling (e.g. American English versus UK or Australian English), you can account for this spelling variation by substituting a character for a single letter in your search term.

In most databases, ? is used to replace one letter

For example: organi?ation (for both organisation and organization)

Keep search terms together

Also known as brackets, parenthesis keep search terms together and ensure those words are searched first. For example, if you search (cloning OR genetics) AND reproduction, the database will search for results on cloning or genetics first, and then for results on reproduction.

Narrow or broaden your search with one word

Use words like AND, OR and NOT to either narrow or broaden your set of results.

We hope these tips help you in your search for the best information available in your library! As always, if you have any questions or need further assistance, contact your Liaison Librarian.

You can also find more library search tips on our website or by watching the video below.

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