Skip to main content

CMGT 1310 - Introduction to Construction Management: Search Tips


To increase your search terms and help ensure all relevant articles are retrieved, you can use truncation, often denoted by the asterisk *

Truncating a term will look for all words which start with the term you've entered, so is particularly good for variant endings and plurals.

Examples as below:

teen* will find teen, teens, teenager, teenagers

technolog* will find technology, technologies, technologist, technologists

manag* will find manage, manages, managing, managerial, management


You can also use wildcards to improve your search, see examples below. Different databases use different symbols so make sure you check the Help pages on each resource.

On the Ebsco datababases the ? is used to replace one character and the # to replace 1 or more.

colo#r will find color as well as colour

behavio#r will find behavior as well as behavior

wom?n will find woman or women

Phrase Searching

Many databases automatically insert an AND in between your search terms, so if you enter teenagers mobile technologies it will look for articles which include the terms teenagers AND mobile AND technologies.

To ensure only the phrase 'mobile technologies' is searched, you can enclose this within double quotation marks, i.e. "mobile technologies".

Using phrase searching will help narrow your search and make it more specific.


Content for this page of the libguide comes from 

Planning A Search Strategy LibGuide. University of Hull. Updated Sept. 23, 2013.

Identify Key Terms

Before you start searching, it is very important to consider the key topics and establish appropriate terms.

Rather than entering a whole assignment title, you need to pick out the important words needed to describe your topic.

From the following assignment title the key concepts are highlighted:

"Discuss the impact of mobile technology on teenagers over the last five years"

Some tips when selecting your search terms:

Consider all the synonyms and related terms for the terms you are searching for:

         e.g. teenager, teen, youth, juvenile, adolescent

Think about  American spelling and terminology

         e.g. colour / color,  behaviour / behavior, lift / elevator

Consider formal and informal terms

         e.g. heart attack / myocardial infarction

Think about different word endings, plurals

         e.g. child, child's children, childhood

Note acronyms and abbreviations

         e.g. computer aided design / CAD

Boolean Operators

Boolean consists of connectors which allow you to combine your search terms. Learning how to use these effectively will ensure you get the most appropriate results.


Use AND to combine your search terms when you want all of your search terms to be found. This will narrow or focus your search

Example: leadership AND higher education

Results will include articles about leadership in higher education


Use OR when you want to look for alternative terms, phrases or synonyms. This will broaden your search

Example: college OR university OR higher education

Results will include articles about college, university and higher education


Use NOT to exclude a particular term from your search. This will narrow your search

Example: education AND United States NOT Texas

Results will include articles about education in the United States but will leave out articles on Texas

Refining Your Search

Your search strategy is an iterative process so you may need to tweak it further depending on how many results you get. Please see tips on how to do this.

As you start looking through your results you may also see other keywords which you haven't thought about. Simply go back to your search strategy and add them in the appropriate place.  

Too Few Results?

If you have a very limited set of results you will need to broaden the search. Ways to do this are:

Search for even more synonyms or related terms - try looking at relevant articles to identify further terms or the thesaurus or subject index.

Search on a broader topic rather a specific term, e.g. insects instead of spiders

Use truncation to increase the number of results, educat*  to find education, educational, educating etc

Too Many Results?

If you have too many to look through, try the suggestions below:

Combine even more keywords (add keywords for an additional concept) to make your search more specific

Limit by date range - perhaps the last 10 years?

Narrow some of your search terms to specific search fields, e.g. title only

Limit to English language only

Limit by type of material, e.g. peer-reviewed only

Instruction & Assessment Coordinator

Proximity Search

Many databases have other ways of searching, e.g. proximity searching, which enable you to specify that two search words should be near to each other, or a certain distance from each other, in the results that you find. 

This is sometimes done by using the operators NEAR (e.g. in the Library catalogue) or SAME (e.g. in Web of Science). 

In some databases you can specify the distance between search words, e.g. in the Ebsco databases (such as Academic Search Complete, Business Source Complete and Cinahl) teenager N3 mobiles will find results in which these two search words appear within three words of each other, in any order.

You can also do a 'with' search in these databases so teenager W3 mobiles will find results in which these two search words appear within three words of each other, but in the order specified.