Searching online information resources

There are many types of computer resources that can be searched by entering keywords and phrases. The internet, a media database like Electric Library and a library catalogue are examples.

Here are a few useful general tips:


Become familiar with the features of a powerful search engine like Google and use it first when searching the internet. Use Electric Library or the online databases available from your local library to search for newspaper and journal articles on your topic. Get to know the advanced search features of each search tool, as these help you to search in very specific ways. There are links to all these resources in the side bar.


When searching a huge information resource like the internet or a large resource like Electric Library start with a very specific search query.

  • Use quotation marks to create an exact phrase that you want to find
  • Use a combination of phrases and keywords where possible
  • Use small case letters only.

"fred hollows" biography
"mining industry" "industrial disputes"


If you do not get enough results then make your query a little broader by removing the least important keyword or phrase.

"mining industry" "industrial disputes"
could be modified to:
"mining industry" disputes

or modifed further to:
mining disputes


If you still do not get enough results then rephrase your query with a different keyword.

"mining industry" strikes
mining strikes


Use the advanced search features of your search engine to narrow your search in a number of very useful ways.

Use the 'search tools' link on the Google search results page to narrow your results to a particular country of origin and webpages updated recently:

Access more advanced search features on the Google search results page by clicking the settings tab on the top right side of the page and selecting advanced search:

When on the advanced search page use the available fields to narrow your search results. The example below shows how to narrow your search results to just Australian government sites updated in the last year:

You can also use the advanced search to find websites that have your search terms in the title - so the whole webpage will probably be about your topic.

You can also search for .pdf files, which is the common format for journal articles and reports that are often very useful. Remember to use the text find tool (Control+F / Command+F) to assist you to find your search terms quickly in long .pdf files or webpages.

You could also use one of the Australian search engines available via the 'Internet search tools' link in the left sidebar of this page to search for specific Australian information.

Be persistent and try a number of variations of your search query. Ask for assistance if you cannot find the information you need.


When searching resources like library catalogues that are relatively small in comparison to the internet, it is usually best to just use keywords. Enter one or two keywords in the 'keywords' field on the search page:

mammals australia
science fiction

You can enter keywords in the appropriate 'title', 'author' or 'subjects' search fields for a more specific search of a particular field.

If you do not get any results using the catalogue it does not mean there is nothing in the library on your topic. Remember to search the reference section and to browse the shelves and look at the index pages of books to find information on your topic.


Check your spelling, especially when using media databases and library catalogues that will not give you a spelling alert like internet search engines do. Misspelled words are the major cause of students not finding what they want when searching online information resources.






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