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University of Wollongong Australia

Finding information

How to find information for your assessments, and how to get the most out of your sources once you've found them.

Effective searching

What you can learn from this page:

  • Understand where to search (table)
  • Know how to use search strategies and tips (diagram)

Understanding where to search

This table outlines the benefits and limitations of different non-library and Library databases.

Database Useful because it: Be aware that:
Google
  • may be a helpful starting place
  • searches the web
  • finds official sources, such as government websites
  • it's harder to find scholarly (academic) sources
  • information quality varies
  • anyone can add information to the web
Google Scholar
  • searches a wide range of scholarly sources
  • may link to available full-text options
  • may find 'grey literature' published outside of commercial or academic publishing 
  • advanced searching is limited
  • even though 'scholarly', the quality of sources can still vary
  • not all academic content is captured
Library Databases
  • are excellent for general and/or focused subject searching
  • make it easier to identify peer-reviewed articles and scholarly sources
  • can access far more full-text items (at no cost)
  • have consistently higher quality content than Google Scholar
  • you need to know which database(s) to choose
  • some databases are easier to use than others
  • it can be hard to find simple explanations or topic overviews
UOW Library SEARCH
  • is our UOW Library database equivalent to Google Scholar
  • is a great starting place especially if unsure which library database(s) to use
  • can access far more full-text items (at no cost)
  • it's multidisciplinary, so not all subject areas may be equally represented, but you can refine your results

Search strategies and tips

Take a look at this diagram and see what steps you need to follow to begin researching for your assignment.

Profile view of a stylised head with two gear inside it. Multi-coloured circles radiating from a central, red, circle. A stylised light bulb. Red, white and blue circles falling into a filter. A stylised profile of a person sitting at a computer.





1. Look at your assessment task or question 2. Connect your search words 3. Use search tricks 4. Improve your results 5. Practice searching

What are the main ideas?

What concepts or theories have you covered in your subject?

Write down your main ideas, synonyms, related words and phrases.

Use OR

adolescent OR teenager

They mean the same thing. This search will find both (or either) of the search words.

Use AND

adolescent AND "physical activity"

These words represent the main ideas in the question. This will find results with both of the search words.

*

The asterisk symbol (*) helps you search for words with different endings.

teen* will find words like teen, teens, teenager and teenagers.

“ ... ”

Quotation marks (e.g. "physical activity") will find common phrases to make your results more relevant.

You can narrow your search results in databases by filtering the appropriate fields.

For example:

  • year (for up-to-date research)
  • type (e.g. article or book)
  • subject (for relevance)

1. Practice searching by using your own assessment question.

2. Our Search Word Generator will help you think of relevant words and phrases to use with AND or OR.

3. Take this 5-10 minute database searching tutorial for guided help with Library's SEARCH.