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Research tips

This page goes over the basics of research. For a more in-depth look at searching for a literature review, check out the Searching the literature library research guide.

Remember that your Faculty Librarian can give you one on one assistance with searching for a literature review, including assistance with developing your search strategy, identifying and using appropriate databases, and anything else mentioned in this guide.          


Rather than pasting your whole assignment question into a search box, you can retrieve much better results by:

  • reading your question/briefing carefully to identify key terms and concepts
  • think of synonyms or similar phrases that describe the same thing
  • think of what evidence or research you are looking for

These actions may give you ideas of other terms to add to your search, and also where to search.

Combining keywords 

Most databases and catalogues let you combine keywords when searching. This will help you get better results. Watch the video above to find out how.

You can expand or narrow your search results by using connectors (or operators) to form a relationship between your search terms.

AND - connects your terms together. You will only retrieve results that contain ALL your terms

OR - expands your results. You will retrieve results that contain ANY of your terms

NOT - excludes terms from your results

More search operators

(brackets OR parentheses) - brackets groups terms together, particularly useful for grouping synonyms in an OR search

"quotation marks" - put terms in double quotation marks to search for the words as an exact phrase

You can use a database or search engine's 'advanced' search options to bring up the AND, OR and NOT connectors, and also to be able to choose which field is being searched for your terms. A regular or 'basic' search will search for your terms across any/all fields, but in an advanced search you can specify to only search fields such as 'title', 'author', 'subject' or 'abstract'.

In academic search engines like Library Search, ProQuest or EBSCO you can refine your results by options such as:

  • Content type, e.g. books, peer-reviewed journal articles or newspaper articles
  • Date range
  • Topic/subject


Once you find a resource, how do you know if it is useful for the research you are conducting? You could read/watch/listen to it, but you could save time by first testing the resource against the CRAP test. The CRAP test is a set of 4 criteria you can quickly measure a resource against to see whether it is worth engaging with further.


Criteria Questions to ask

CurrencyLetter C with calendar

Is this the most up to date resource you can find? Is it new enough for the purposes of your topic?
RelevanceLetter R with target Is the material relevant to your topic and your arguments?
AuthorityLetter A with expert advice on a wooden block Who is the author? Are they a credible source? Are they qualified to talk about this subject? Are arguments backed up with evidence (such as references or citations)?
PurposeLetter P with a road sign What is the purpose of the resource? E.g. Is it designed to sell, entertain, vent, educate or present research?