Search tips

Finding relevant literature for your work can be a complex process. Here is some advice on how to improve your information searches.

Where to search?

When you are looking for literature for a report or paper it is wise to consider where to search for suitable material for academic work. In OneSearch you can search for books and dissertations that are available at our library.  You can also find articles, journals, conference publications, reports, etc. from most of the databases the library subscribes to.

If you only want to search for articles within a given subject and limit your search to academic material, our subject guides can direct you to the relevant databases.

Libris is the joint catalogue of the Swedish academic and research libraries. Here you can find books but also dissertations in full text. You may order interlibrary loans on books that we do not have in our library. In SwePub you may search for academic publications from Swedish seats of learning.

How do I find search terms?

How do I find search terms?

Finding relevant search terms is essential when you search for literature about a given subject. Use your subject as a starting point and write down important words and appropriate synonyms. Many databases have predetermined subject terms that are used to describe the contents of the documents. Subject terms function in approximately the same way as tags in social media. They describe contents.

Subject terms may be used for new searches. Check whether the database you are using has its own list of subject terms, a so called thesaurus. You can check your own list of terms against the database thesaurus. The thesaurus is often available in the database menu under headings such as Thesaurus, Subject Terms, CINAHL headings.

I cannot find what I need

I cannot find what I need

Consider how the topic for your paper may be divided into different parts. Searching for a few aspects at a time increases the possibility of finding relevant literature.

Topic example:

The influence of cycling on the health of young adults

Try to search for different combinations of these concepts instead of searching for all concepts at the same time.

Examples of different search combinations:

  • cycling health exercise
  • ”young adults” health exercise
  • ”young adults” cycling

The texts/literature you refer to in your paper show what research has already been published on the subject, but all texts do not have to cover your entire subject. Perhaps nobody has researched it. It is a strength to study what has not already been done - this is how researchers think.

Too many results?

Too many results?

Phrase search

Narrow down your search by placing your search terms within quotation marks. This means that you search for two or more words at the same time and in a certain order.

Example in OneSearch: “sustainable development

Combination search

Use more search terms. The more words you combine the fewer results you will get because all the words must be present in the information about each publication. Often the word AND is added automatically between the terms and does not need to be written out.

Example in OneSearch: “sustainable development” environment

You may also try using more specific search terms.

See example in OneSearch: geoengineering

Not enough results?

Not enough results?


Add an asterisk (*) to search for a word in its different forms.

Example in OneSearch:

creat* can give results for create, creative, creativity, creature, etc.

employ* can give results for employer, employee, employment, etc

Combination search

You can get more results by combining similar words. By using OR between words, you search for several terms simultaneously. In that way, only one of your search terms has to be present in the result, whereas in some results, both terms can be present. This will give you more results than if you only search for one term at a time.

Example in OneSearch: student OR scholar

If you want more information on how to combine search terms, watch our video on combination searching.

Test your knowledge of search techniques

Question 1

You would like to find relevant research on the health effects of cycling. What combinations of search terms will lead to the best results? Choose one option and see the search and the answer in OneSearch.

  1. “health effects” AND cycling
  2. (“health effects” OR fitness OR “weight loss”) AND cycling
  3. (“health effects” AND fitness AND “weight loss”) OR cycling
  4. "health effects of cycling” 

Question 2

You are going to write a paper on nurses’ attitudes towards cancer patients. Choose the option that uses search techniques correctly and therefore leads to the best results. The search is carried out in OneSearch where you can see the answer for each option.

  1. nurses* attitudes cancer patients*
  2. ”nurse attitudes” cancer patient* 
  3. “nurses attitudes towards patients with cancer” 

Book a librarian

If you need tutoring in searching for information you can book a librarian. Booking a librarian is an option if you have already searched for information on your own but have encountered problems and need help to proceed.

Book a librarian

How does a booked session work?

At a booked session your questions and needs are our starting point. Our goal is that you will develop your ability to search and evaluate information in accordance with the academic standards for your assignment.


Prepare by going through the searches you have made and think about what areas you need the most help with. It is helpful if you write down questions in advance and bring examples of searches you have made or any relevant references you have found. Please read through the instructions for your assignment where requirements for literature are described. If possible, bring your own computer!


The session takes about 60 minutes. During our meeting we discuss the questions and examples that you have taken with you. This can be such issues as:

  • Understanding what demands for information searching are expressed in the assignment
  • Planning the search process and creating a relevant search strategy
  • Evaluating and choosing academic material
  • Choosing the relevant database or search engine
  • Finding and using good search terms
  • Searching efficiently in different databases, and a lot more.


Use the comments and examples you have received during the tutoring session in your continued search for information. If you need further support you are welcome to visit the library web site or information desk, watch the library’s videos at LnuPlay, use your subject guide or chat with us.