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Diploma in General Studies

This guide provides links to resources that will assist students in their study.

Search Strategies

Why do I need to know about keywords?

  • Keywords give you the best chance of finding relevant information by clarifying what it is you are searching for
  • Identifying keywords from concepts is a key part of understanding your topic
  • Keywords allow you to capture results you might otherwise miss
  • Keywords can help to broaden or narrow your search

How do I know which keywords to use in my search?

The first step is to consider the key concepts in your topic. Consider the following topic:

Famines and other crises of scarcity are compounded by drought or some other climate extreme

  • the main concepts are famine, drought and climate extreme
  • brainstorm and list related terms or synonyms for each concept
  • consider geographical location: Australia? Victoria? Europe? Asia etc...


Famine Drought Climate extreme
 Starvation  water shortage  weather
 Food security  water supply  natural disasters
 Poverty    fire
Hunger   climate change


 TIP: Consider variations in spelling: colour/color, organise/organize, theatre/theater.

Keyword Searching 101 Christine DeMeyer added 6 November 2015

To re-iterate:

AND will narrow your search. Useful when your keywords are quite common and you need to be specific.

OR will broaden your search. Useful when your terms are very specific and you need to cast a wide net.

NOT eliminates a word from your search. Useful when you get two terms often found together and you are only interested in one.

Combining Boolean Operators

You can combine Boolean operators into longer search strings. The search below can be entered like this:

(famine OR starvation) AND drought

It will return results containing "Famine" and "drought" and also "starvation" and "drought".

Using two different operators in the same search string? Employ brackets:

  • (media OR journalism) AND bias
  • (technique OR skill) AND practice
  • (creativity OR imagination) AND (children OR teenagers)


Use quote marks when searching for a phrase (more than one word). For example: "water shortage", "climate change"

This will ensure the search is for the exact phrase rather than two separate words and will hence return specifc results and save you time. 


The wildcard symbol '?' will match any single character (although some databases and catalogues use the "*" symbol for a wildcard as well). For example, wom?n will include women and woman.


Use the truncation symbol '*' (asterisk) to help you search for alternate forms of your keywords. For example, child* will include child, children, children's.