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Using News Sources: 3. Searching Online

Online tutorial designed to help you make the most of online news sources

1. Identify your search terms

Before you start searching, spend some time defining your research topic. Ask yourself, what is it that you want to find out? What search terms or keywords will find this information?

Use whatever technique works best for you - e.g. brainstorming, words lists or mind maps etc. can help you think around your topic and identify all possible search concepts and terms. 

Take a look at the short video to help you begin:

3. Use search techniques to improve your search


You can use search techniques to help improve your searching.



By applying these techniques, you can increasereduce or improve the relevancy of your search results, making it easier to access to the right materials. 


To increase search results use: truncation and wildcards

To reduce search results use: phrase and proximity searching

To improve the relevance of search results use: field searching

These techniques are particularly useful when you are searching large news databases as they will help you focus your searching more accurately and help avoid a situation where your are overwhelmed by too many search results.

Truncation is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.

To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.

The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.

The asterisk * symbol is most commonly used for truncation. However, check out the help screens as  !, ?, or # may also be used.

For example:

entrepreneur* will find entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial etc.

child* will find child, childrenchildlikechildhood etc.

Use it with care to avoid finding too many alternatives.

Wildcards are similar to truncation but they are used to substitute for a single letter or no letter in a word.

They are useful for irregular plurals and for British/American English spellings.

They broaden your search by including variant word spellings.

The question mark symbol is most commonly used. However, check out the help screens as  ! , *, or # may also be used. 

For example:

wom?n will find woman and women

optimi?ation will find optimisation and optimization

model?ing will find modeling and modelling

Proximity searching can help to both increase or narrow your results. It can increase your results when "phrase searching" is too restrictive.


WITHIN Operator - Wx

Finds words within x number of words from each other, in the order they were entered.

Substitute the x with the number of words that may appear between  

ExampleHillary w2 Clinton 

Would find Hillary Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton

Would not find Clinton, Hillary

Phrase searching is the most limiting technique as it is used to specify that your terms must appear next to each other, and in the order you specify.

Phrase searching is commonly achieved by surrounding your phrase with quotation marks.

Always check the Database Help screens, as some databases may use different symbols.

Phrase searching examples:

"World Trade Organization"

"influencer marketing"

What are database fields?

Records in library catalogues and online databases are made up of fields containing pieces of bibliographic information which describe the item in details.

Fields differ between databases but common fields include:

  • author
  • title
  • journal title
  • abstract
  • publisher
  • date/year of publication
  • subject/descriptor

Why use field searching?

Field searching makes more search more focused and can be useful if you are overwhelmed by search results.

If you do not use field searching, databases usually run a keyword search against the full database record, leading to a very wide search.

For example, a keyword search for William Shakespeare will find items authored by William Shakespeare but also items that are about Shakespeare and his work.  An Author Search for William Shakespeare would be a more limited search.

You will usually need to use the Advanced Search option to easily access the field searching options.  

You can combine multiple fields using the boolean ANDORNOT operators.

The screenshot below illustrates field searching in the Business Source Complete database.

Note the wide choice of fields and how you can search across multiple fields for relevant content.  As Business Source Complete holds business related information it has a number of fields appropriate to that discipline.  You will find different fields in databases from other disciplines

For effective online searching you need to invest time up front to develop a search strategy using a range of search techniques. If you fail to think about your search strategy you may find you are overwhelmed with far too many irrelevant results.  

This is particularly important when searching news content as you will be searching vast databanks of news information.

It is useful to think of this as a three step process:

  1. Identify your search terms
  2. Combine your Search terms
  3. Use search techniques to enhance your search

Search Strategy Worksheet 

You can use the Search Strategy Worksheet to plan out and record your search strategy.

Explore the guidance below on these three areas.

Then self test your knowledge and understanding with the quiz.

2. Combine your search terms

It is possible to use a number of different keywords in a single search, by using operators.

The three most commonly used operators are ANDORNOT.  These are known as Boolean operators. They can be used to broaden or narrow a search and to exclude unwanted concepts.

Watch the video to find out how to use these operators.  And fid out more on the 

Search techniques Quiz

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