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University of Newcastle Library guides

Research Help for International Students: Develop your search

Guide to assist international students find information for assignments.

Develop your search

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

Sometimes the assignment questions don't include the best search words, so it's a good idea to think of synonyms or related terms to help find the best resources.

Also, different people will use different words to describe the same thing, so by using synonyms or related terms we won’t miss useful results.

A thesaurus will help identify these terms.

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 mass 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)

But before we start searching, we need to understand our sources.

For more help with putting a search together, have a look at this video from UTS Library. The video explains how to use connectors (boolean operators) such as AND and OR.

Using Boolean Operators