Your Library Online

A companion research guide for the Your Library Online webinar

Search tips

New to searching at the Library? Here are some tips and tools to improve your search experience. You can find more information by visiting our pages on Help using our catalogue.

Key points

Where to search?

There are over 300 databases at the Library, all listed on our A-Z Databases page. Each database might specialise in a different subject and offer different types of content, from articles to videos.

Which is the most suitable database for your search?

For help selecting the best database to begin your search, visit the A-Z Databases page and filter by subject to see:

  • recommendations in the 'yellow box' - these are the most comprehensive and popular database relating to that subject
  • a description under each database, detailing its strengths and scope
  • any relevant research guides (right-hand side) for more resources and advice specific to that subject.

TIP: Remember to Clear Filters for each search

TIP: Multi-subject databases include many individual databases and a vast range of topics. For example, I could search for international business articles on ProQuest Business, if I choose ProQuest Central this includes a conglomeration of 70+ ProQuest databases, including business.

View of the A-Z Databases list

View of the A-Z Databases list


'Art and architecture' filter applied to databases

View of A-Z Databases list with the 'Art and architecture' subject filter applied

What search terms?

When searching, the aim is to find relevant information and to eliminate as many irrelevant items as possible.

  • choose several terms that best describe the information you are looking for
    • it is good to choose three to five terms
    • if your search is for a person, an event or anything with a proper name it is likely to be easier to locate relevant items especially if the name is unusual.

Which filters and advanced search features?

We recommend you start with a broad search, assess the results, and then search again, using additional or different terms, or by using options within the database. 



Each database will offer a range of Filters, usually to one side of the results. Reflect on what you are seeking and use filters accordingly:

  • Date rangeAre you seeking the most recent research or looking for content created in a particular point in history? Adjust the date range as needed.
  • Full text
  • Peer reviewed


Advanced Search

Advanced Search offers a range of options, these can differ across different databases. You might search within areas of the article record by using the following:

  • narrow to Abstract or Title etc.
  • specify a range of dates
  • narrow to 'Peer Reviewed' items -meaning item is assessed by several experts prior to publication
  • use "quotation" marks to indicate a phrase. NOTE - be careful as variations to a phrase or name may be excluded from your search

Should I use AND, OR, NOT?

OR, AND, NOT are Boolean operators. The development of online searching has limited the need for these searches but they can be useful. Be wary though, sometimes the Advanced Search option may not interpret these searches as you wish

  • NOT can be useful for eliminating irrelevant terms when the same word means very different things.
    • EXAMPLE Crane NOT bird;
    • Borchgrevink NOT (Antarctic OR Polar) - when looking for someone of that name but not the Antarctic explorer
  • OR can be used to include two different terms or phrases for the same concept. Be careful as using brackets in the search does matter.
    • EXAMPLE "Price of fuel" won't find "cost of petrol". For this search OR could be used  - "price of fuel" OR "cost of petrol"
      • what about cars AND "price of fuel" OR "cost of petrol"? This is creating two searches, one for  cars AND "price of fuel" and a second search just for "cost of petrol". See the example below for the varying outcomes
Diagram explaining Boolean operators

Diagram explaining Boolean operators 
Credit to Cecelia Vetter, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sample search using Boolean operators (image 1/4).
Note: Because I haven't used brackets to segment the search, the results include two searches - one for cars AND "price of fuel" and a second for "cost of petrol".

Boolean search on Proquest database

Sample search using Boolean operators (image 2/4).
Note: Using the brackets means that cars is matched with "price of fuel" OR "cost of petrol".

Boolean search on Proquest database

Sample search using Boolean operators (image 3/4).
Borchgrevink finds many articles about the Antarctic explorer.

Boolean search on Proquest database

Sample search using Boolean operators (image 4/4).
Borchgrevink NOT (Antarctic OR Polar) allows me to remove articles that include the terms Antarctic or Polar.

Google and searching outside the Library collection

Google Advanced Search

Searching the internet for very specific things such as a name, place or event can be fairly straightforward. Trying to find substantial research on less clearly defined topics can be more challenging.

Web pages tend to be concise and brief. Substantial information such as reports tend to be loaded as pdfs. Try Google Advanced Search to use a range of options to focus your search.  For example:

  • narrow to a specific type of site - for example for Australian state or national libraries or government agencies or for Australian universities and schools.
  • narrow to file type pdf for more substantial published reports.

economy  globalisation research filetype:pdf

These are just suggestions. The most important thing is to think about your search and try various options and be persistent.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is an online index to a wide range of scholarly journals. This includes journals published by universities, professional bodies and societies. Usually the content will have been peer reviewed (which means that experts have checked the item prior to publication). Much of the content is not freely available in full text but is only available by subscription. 


Google Scholar


Note options below article record linking to other items citing the article. If it is available to you in full text there will be a link at far right. 

If you have access to full text subscriptions through a Library (such as ours) click Settings then Library links to add libraries you have access to.

Usually this will only include large regional libraries, universities and national and state libraries. Google Scholar will then recognise items available through your library. 


Google scholar

Government and other library content

The free internet can be a vast, confusing space. Content can from excellent to useless and everything in between. However there are many very good websites, and government, libraries and other organisations are continually adding substantial content. As a short list of what you might find:

Using Advanced search to find government, library and university content

You can use Google Advanced Search to focus your search on content from government and university websites. 

  • narrow to a specific type of site; e.g., for Australian state or national libraries or government agencies or for Australian universities and schools.
  • narrow to file type pdf for more substantial published reports.

economy  globalisation research filetype:pdf

Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is an online archive of digitised books, journals, and other content. This content will usually be items that are out of copyright, enabling them to be shared without restriction.

Generally this means that the author died more than 70 years ago. There are many exceptions and laws vary from country to country.

Open access resources

Open access material can be accessed and reused by anyone without restriction. Open access has its origins in academic research, but the principles underpinning this publishing and distribution model have expanded to other areas including education and data. 

Visit our Open access resources guide for more information on how to find freely accessible resources and scholarly research.


Google Images

Google Images has a number of clever options for locating images.

When you conduct a general search you can choose Images and then Tools to open options such as restricting to black and white images, and re-use conditions. 

The Time option relates to when the image was uploaded not when it was originally taken so may only be useful for more recent images.

Drag images to the search box to find similar images.

For more on using online resources, you can view Our Online Collections playlist on YouTube: 

  • Introduction to our online catalogue
  • Discover our databases
  • How to get useful Google search results
  • Researching AFL at the Library
  • Newspapers & magazines online
  • Music & audio collections online


Save your findings

You've found exactly what you were seeking - how do you ensure you can find this again in future? 

Most Library catalogues and databases offer a mix of tools to save and export item information. Our Library catalogue has buttons to print, email and share what you have found. 

If you're a Library member searching our catalogue, you can sign in to your account to view your search history, save searches & alerts, and add items to a favourites list.

Some of the save/export options you might see include:

  • Email
  • Print
  • Cite
  • Download PDF, if applicable and available


Looking for more help?

Ask one of our librarians.

You can also find updates on any known issues affecting to our online collections on this Library Systems Status page.