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Information Search Strategy

How to find materials: Information literacy


Concept Building



Information Sources

Searching online best strategies, Boolean and Concept building


You can use the search operators AND, OR and NOT to combine search terms. These are the most commonly known and used operators.

The operators AND and NOT limit the number of results from a search. The operator OR does the opposite; it increases the number of results.


  • Endangered AND birds : combines these two words
  • Endangered OR birds : searches for the words endangered OR birds. This search will produce more results. (Tip: the operator “OR” can also be used to include different spellings and translations or synonyms in the search).
  • Endangered NOT birds : searches for the word ‘endangered’ and excludes the word ‘birds’.

To see how this works, take a look at The Boolean machine. Move your cursor over the operators AND, OR and NOT to see how they determine your search.

You can also combine more than two search terms. Use brackets to indicate the priority. For example (Money OR inflation) AND banking.

I want to search for for an essay titled: "Discuss the effect fo antioxidants on athletic performance"

I can do an 'Advanced Search' this means there will be a number of concept search boxes available with AND between them

Remember the more concepts we combine the fewer and more specific the search results

Within a concept box we can add different variants of similar words (Synonyms) with OR between them to increase the search results

Example of a practical use of 'Concepts' & Synonyms 


AIT Library Database searching: Notes and tips

On college webpage at 

Click on Library on right under quick links

Click: E resources (upper right) and then on Online Databases

Main Science databases include the EBSCO databases (CINAHL, Academic Search, AMED, SocINDEX) and HEALTH RESEARCH premier, also the Science Direct Database; and free databases such as PubMed and Google Scholar.

EBSCO is made up of sub databases; CINAHL, AMED, Academic Search, and Medline, and SocIndex 

Discover@AIT is not a database but a search engine which searches across different databases however the searching principles are the same:

KEYWORD SEARCH: strategies and Hints

Decide on keywords, which cover all or part of the meaning of your research.

Initially select 2 or 3 words which together sum up the meaning of the essay (or part) and use these in separate search boxes

When selecting keywords start simply; use two or three simple key words or phrases; then you can adjust the search depending on the number of results. 

In EBSCO, Google scholar (best searched on campus as it links to college databases), and Discover@AIT you can put key phases in inverted commas such as “student nurse” or “communication barriers”; this will ensure that the phrase, rather than the separate words are searched. 

If you get a lot of results make the search more specific by adding another keyword or by changing the search parameters to TITLE or ABSTRACT.

After the preliminary search type you should expand your keywords. Eventually you may have 10 or more different keywords that you can try in combination of 2 to 3 at a time in the different databases. Remember different keywords will give optimum results in different databases.

Look at the keywords or subject terms in relevant articles in your results (these are usually listed in the result summaries under the title) and consider adding these to your search keyword list - also you can just click on the title of the article to get a fuller list of keywords used

In some databases certain SUBJECT searches will be suggested depending on your initial search which can be very helpful. Remember a SUBJECT is what the main topic of an article is, so all the results will be relevant. In EBSCO simply click on the subject thesaurus or Subject Major heading on the left of the main screen

You may then decide to rerun the search with different keywords or Subject areas

Also check Discover@AIT and Google scholar for the article as these link to other free resources

For medical / Biological articles also check Pubmed and click on the free full text limiter – this limiter is on the left of the results screen.

To look at full text for any article click on PDF full text link – you can e mail articles to your student e mail from most databases or print or save using the print and save shortcuts. 

You can save results and also set up e mail subject alerts by setting up a personal login on the library databases 

If you find a very relevant article in any database do check the reference list at the end of the article; you can search for journal title on the main library page to see if AIT holds the journal referenced or if AIT has a link to it. 

NOTE: If the journal title is in abbreviated format simply type the abbreviation into a google search with the word ‘journal’ beside it and the full title will appear

Pubmed has a ‘Related citation’ link on its searches to help you find similar articles

Google scholar has a ‘Cited by’ and Cited in’ function which can also be used to find similar material.



Double click on ‘EBSCO Databases-Search All’ and enter your login in information when prompted. Click on EBSCO HOST WEB: Click on tick boxes beside all relevant databases in EBSCO: (information given as to contents). Sign in to create alerts and save searches.


Choose advanced search: Sign in to create alerts and save searches


Enter keywords or Key phases: Use Free full text filter on left: Sign in to create alerts and save searches


Enter keywords or Key phases: Sign in to create alerts and save searches


Click on the ‘eResources’ tab and then on ‘eJournals’ link, and scroll down to the science section. ‘Highwire’ and ‘BioMed Central’ are examples of good free databases. 

Also click on the ‘eResources’ tab and then on the ‘Institutional repositories’ link for free resources such as RIAN, Ethos (theses) and LENUS

Lenus  www.lenus .ie is a good source for Irish material in the healthcare sector.


Check the AIT Library Subject guide in your subject area for a list of online links

Database searching tips