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Search tips

Video guides

The following videos contain hints and tips on how to get the most out of searching our Library databases.

Use of advanced search, phrase searching, Boolean (AND/OR/NOT) and the importance or searching for synonyms (Duration: 3:56 mins)


Using wildcards, proximity operators and selecting search terms (Duration: 4:31 mins)


Advanced search techniques; building complex search strings (Duration: 2:40 mins)

Common search shortcuts

Try these common shortcuts to refine your search:

  • AND OR NOT: sometimes called Boolean logic, use the words AND OR NOT in your search to combine terms together and widen or narrow a search 
  • Quotation marks: use this for finding words as a phrase, e.g. “supply chain management”
  • Wildcard asterisk: use to pick up variant word endings/spellings, e.g. “cost estimat*” for cost estimate, cost estimates, cost estimation, cost estimations, cost estimating, cost estimator, cost estimators
  • Wildcard question mark: use when a letter/character changes but is not removed, e.g. organi?ation
  • Synonyms, acronyms, abbreviations: use this technique to include any words, phrases, acronyms, abbreviations that might have been used by authors writing on the topic, e.g. aerospace OR aircraft OR aeroplane* OR airplane*
  • Nest your terms using brackets: using brackets to nest terms enables the dataset to interpret your search string correctly e.g. Lean AND (manufactur* OR product*OR techn*) 
  • Proximity operators: NEAR/WITHIN allows you to find two or more search terms within a specified distance of each other but in no particular order. Database rules vary, so check within the help of each database to see what they use: 
    • Scopus uses W/n: e.g. robot* W/6 weld* 
    • ABI/Inform and Web of Science use NEAR/n: e.g. robot* NEAR/6 weld*
    • EBSCO Business Source Complete uses Nn: e.g. robot* N6 weld*

The above searches would find variations of the words robot and weld no more than six words apart. 

Read our search tips leaflet for more information

Further online guidance

  • Google and Google Scholar search tips
  • Discovering Quality Information - an eLearning module that explains the different types of information you will need to use for your studies at Cranfield, and when they are useful. It is usually undertaken before you attend the face-to-face session we run during your induction programme.

Need help?

Please arrange a research appointment with your Information Specialist.