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Assignment Essentials: Step 2: Search




Keywords, Operators & Filters

 by Katy Kavanagh Webb, Research and Instructional Services Librarian, and Elsevier’s Library Connect. Provided under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA

Choosing the Right Words to help you Search

Remember that any search you do is only as good as the words you search with, so it's worth spending some time thinking about what words might yield the more relevant articles.

Here's one example of how to search for journal articles relevant to your assignment topic: - ."How can education be used to overcome the stigma of depression?"

 What are the main concepts within the question? You might identify:

  • Education
  • Stigma
  • Depression

Think about the different words and alternative spellings that might be used to describe those same concepts. Doing a quick search on OneSearch or a Library database can suggest other useful keywords to you. For example:

  • Education - or Information or Teaching  
  • Stigma - or Prejudice or Understanding
  • Depression - or Mental health or Mental illness

Boolean Operators

Once you have chosen the relevant keywords and the databases you want to search in, use the Boolean Operators to connect the terms. (See video)

AND All the terms must be present

Education AND stigma AND depression - (Gives you fewer, most focused results)

OR Any one of the terms must be present 

Education OR Information OR Teaching - (This will give you more articles - picking up those articles that mention either education or information or teaching)

NOT One term, but not the other, must be present

Mental health NOT depression - (this will return articles on mental health except for those that mention depression. Use with caution!)

Tips for searching

Think about words with similar meanings e.g. Middle ages or medieval or mediaeval
" Exact Phrase " e.g. "Wild Atlantic Way" or "Seamus Heaney"
Narrow down your search results e.g. to Academic publications only ,
by publication dates etc.

Searching the Library Catalogue

The Library Catalogue lets you know what the Library owns and where it is kept (on the shelves or online).

Title search – when you have the exact title of a book
Author search – type in surname first - e.g. Bowen Elizabeth
Keyword search – good for essay titles or research topics. Finds words in the title, table of contents, subject headings. .

Modify search allows you to limit your search results by location, format, publication years etc. Useful when you have got a large list of results.

Save your search results - you can email the search results to yourself. 



Scholarly Peer Reviewed Journals

The content of scholarly journals tends to be very specialised, and written by people (academic or professional) who are experts in their chosen subject fields.  

Peer Reviewed journals: when other experts evaluate the article before it is published, to check that it meets a high standard ot content, research methodology, reasonable conclusions etc. In university your lecturers often require you to use the peer-reviewed articles when researching for your assignments.

Finding a Journal article

If your lecturer has given you the details of a specific journal article to read, or you have come across a reference to an article you want to read, you can find the article by looking at the eJournals & eBooks portal on the Library website.

Search the eJournals / eBooks Catalogue

Searching Databases to find articles

You can find journal articles relevant to your assignment by searching in the Databases that the Library subscribes to. 

There are databases for most subjects, as well as some that search across a lot of different subject areas at the one time. The databases contain references, and often the full text also, of articles relevant to your search.

You can choose to limit your search to peer-reviewed (or scholarly) articles.

There are different types of databases, for example:

Abstracting & Indexing Databases
These concentrate on a specific subject area e.g. Historical Abstracts. These types of databases may not give the full text in the database, but you can check for the article in the eJournals &eBooks Portal

Full text databases
Usually produced by publisher or collection of publishers – they may cover a wide range of subjects – e.g. Academic Search Complete, ProQuest databases

Specialist databases
E.g. reference works such as Oxford Reference Online, or Bridgeman Education for digital images

You can find the complete list of databases that UCC Library has access to below:

Search the Databases


OneSearch searches across a lot (but not all) of the Library print AND electronic resources at the same time, including:

  • Library Catalogue
  • Journals
  • Databases
  • Books, eBooks
  • Newspaper articles
  • Theses
  • Open Access resources