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University of Newcastle Library Guides

Enabling Pathways Library Guide: Developing your search

Guide to assist Open Foundation, Newstep and Yapug students find information for assignments

Developing your search strategy

Now that we've identified our key concepts - geek culture, mainstream and identity, we can think about our search.

Why do we need to do this?  Sometimes the assignment questions don't include the best search words, so we need to think of synonyms or related terms to help find the best resources.


Key concept Synonyms or related words

geek culture

fandom ; subculture


popular culture ; mass culture


individuality ; sense of self

We might not need to use all of these words, but thinking about the words you will use to search can save you time and effort.

Putting your search together - Useful tips

Tip 1.

Use AND to connect different concepts and therefore get fewer search results
e.g. identity AND geek culture AND mainstream

Tip 2.

Use OR to connect synonyms and related terms and therefore get more search results
e.g. mainstream OR popular culture

Tip 3. 

Use quotation marks (" ") to search for a phrase (keep the words together)
e.g. "geek culture" ; "popular culture"
Tip 4.  Use truncation (*) to search for different variations of the word ending
e.g. identi* = identity, identities, identify, identification ... ; fan* = fan, fans, fan's, fans', fandom ...

So after all that, here is a potential search that we could use for our question:

("geek culture" OR fan*)
(mainstream* OR "popular culture")
(identi* OR individuality)

This one is quite advanced, don't be afraid to start with something simpler!

But before you start searching, you might like to have a look at common sources of information so that you're aware of what sources are required for your uni assessments.