Search and writing assistance

Students with computers in the library.Here you can find information which is particularly useful for students who want general support with their academic studies. On the library website there is more information about other services and support offered by the library.

Develop your search techniques

Do you get too many or too few results when searching? Develop your search techniques and search more effectively for scholarly texts. It is also important to be creative and try many different search words and combinations.

Narrow your search

Many search tools offer the possibility to narrow your search results and thus get fewer, more relevant results. Often you can limit by year, language, publication type and more. Sometimes you can also sort the list of results to, for example, get the newest text on top of the list. If possible, use the Advanced search mode to specify the search even further. Among other things, you can then choose to let your words only search the text’s title or abstract.

Phrase searches

Phrases with two or more words can often be searched by using quotation marks. This means that the words must be stated exactly as you have written them. For example, the phrase "ethnic conflicts" gives you results where the word conflicts comes direct after ethnic.


A truncation sign, often an asterisk *, after the beginning of a word sometimes lets you search for all suffixes at the same time. For example, terror* will give you results with the words terror, terrorists, terrorism and so on.

Boolean operators

By using boolean operators (AND/OR/NOT) you can in some cases control your search further. However, you may not need to use these operators - check the search tool’s user manual for more information. Sometimes the Advanced search mode offers the same features.


Bracketing can be used for deciding the order in which the search should be carried out. The words in brackets will be searched for first. Example: Sweden AND (preschool OR kindergarten).

More about search words

You may not find previous research on exactly the same topic that you intend to investigate in your own essay. Instead, you might have to use words that characterizes the subject area at large. Begin your search by searching broadly and with a few words - then you can add more and/or specific words.

In search tools like JSTOR, where you search the entire text, is possible to search for very specific terms and for many words - you will get results anyway. In search tools like Libris, on the other hand, you search primarily for words in the title and key words. This means that you need to search broader and use more general words. These search tools often have a list of subject headings, a so called “thesaurus”, where you can find out which subject headings that is used in that particular search tool.

Studying at the Swedish Red Cross University College? In "Svensk MeSH" (Medial Subject Headings), you will find good keywords for searching databases. For suggestions on other useful terms, see this list. 

Boolean operators – an example

  • History AND Sweden – both words must be present.
  • Preschool OR kindergarten – one or both words must be present.
  • Gender NOT linguistics – the word gender must be present but results with the word linguistics is ignored.