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How to search for scientific information, adapted to available search tools at Lund University

General introduction

The guide is aimed at giving practical advice when you are searching for scientific information. It is mainly designed and intended for students at the Biology department, Lund University, thus search examples and search tools used are tailored for biologists.

Search process

The search process could be summarized in the following 6 steps:

1. Define the subject/question/problem
2. Build a search profile
3. Choose search tool(s)
4. Search
5. Evaluate the search result
6. Re-search

Boolean operators

To be able to build a proper search query you need to combine the search word correctly. To do this you should use the Boolean operators:

- All search terms should be included in the hits

- Limits the search result, i.e. reduces the number of search hits

- Space between words equals AND

- At least one (either - or) of the terms should be found in the search hits

- Use for synonyms or other alternative words

- Broadens the search, i.e. results in more hits

- The term should NOT be found in the hits

- Restricts the search result, i.e. less hits

- You may, by mistake, take away hits of potential interest

Use CAPITALS when you write the Boolean operators. Some databases accept lower case letters, but not all. In Google you have to use capitals.

Other useful tips

Word stem search (= truncation)

most often an * (a so called ”wild card”)

instead of migrating OR migration OR migrated… write migrat*

Phrase search

Example: ”phenotypic plasticity”

The quotation signs indicates two things:

  1. You are searching for the two words together as a concept, not separately
  2. You are searching for the words exactly as you have spelled them, all "extra help" is excluded (for example variant spellings and plural/singular).


Use scientific names for specific species

Lastly but definitely not the least...

Use the available HELP, read the Help section or contact your library.