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LAB - Information Retrieval Toolkit

Tips for better searches

You can refine your search with a few easy tips: 

  • enclose the words you want appearing together as a phrase in quotation marks, for example "sustainable development "
  • truncate words to get wider results with one search, for example the search leader* will bring results with leader, leaders and leadership with the same search 
  • combine search similar terms (alternative search terms) into one search by adding OR between the words, for example (elderly OR seniors OR aged)

Phrase search

If you want to search for an exact phrase (search terms appearing in a particular order) use quotation marks around the words, for example "wireless network" or "mental health" or "business intelligence".  If you don't use quotation marks around the words, many databases will look for the search words individually, so that the search results will include material where the search terms are apart which may make the result irrelevant. The quotation marks also work in Google and Google Scholar searches. 

Term truncation and wildcards

Truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings. Term truncation is particularly useful for languages with case endings, as it allows you to include all the inflected forms of the search term in the search. In LAB Primo the truncation symbol is the asterisk *.

  • Example: using the search term child* brings up child, children, childhood, and any other word that starts with the root "child" in the search results. 

Many databases and search engines including LAB Primo will include plurals in the search results automatically.  

Combining search terms

Boolean logic allows you to connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your set of results. When you need more than one word to describe your search problem, you can combine multiple search terms with Boolean operators. The operators are AND, OR and NOT. Note that Boolean operators must be written in capitals otherwise the search service will not recognize them .

AND -operator narrows down the search. If you combine search terms with AND both terms need to be in the result.  AND -operator is usually built-in search services. For example in LAB Primo the search "mental health" students is the same as "mental health" AND students. 

OR -operator broadens the search. It is commonly used to connect two or more similar concepts and only one of the terms needs to be in the result. 

  • If you want to find all the material relating to cats, dogs or both animals, you could use the search cat OR dog. 
  • If you want to find material about what cats, dogs or either animal eats, you could use the search (cat OR dog) food. Remember to use brackets () around the search terms combined with OR if you add another search term to the search.   

Read more on Boolean operators from the guide to information retrieval.

Search example

For the example topic  Increasing the well-being among higher education students during remote studies the search terms could be combined in the following way: 

  • "higher education" students (wellbeing OR "mental health" OR "physical wellbeing")