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Sustainability and Environment: Plan your Search

A study guide for Bachelor of Sustainability and Environment students.

Plan your search with a search strategy


At university you are expected to find and use scholarly information:

  • in your assignments
  • to prepare for class
  • to explore new theories and ideas

However, to find scholarly information you need to search with a strategy to get good results.

A search strategy is an organized structure of search terms that can help find relevant resources for a topic.  An effective search strategy involves the following 5 steps.

Step 1: Identify key concepts


Before you find any information, identify the main ideas (or key concepts) in your assignment question or research topic.


Indigenous sustainability worldviews

The key concepts are: 

Indigenous sustainability worldviews

Step 2: Brainstorm keywords & synonyms


Different words can be used to describe the same concept.

Think of other words that could be used to describe your key concepts. Synonyms should also be included. 


Indigenous sustainability worldview


Torres Strait Islander Peoples

First Nations peoples

Traditional Owners

Traditional Custodians



traditional practice


heritage protection

cultural sustainability

environmental justice

social inclusion







Some resources to help with brainstorming: 

  • Google & Wikipedia
  • Dictionaries & Thesauri
  • Reference books & Encyclopedias

Step 3: Connect keywords and synonyms


Boolean Operators are words that connect search terms (keywords) to perform a search that a database can understand. ‘AND’ and ‘OR’ are commonly used Boolean Operators.
AND finds results that use both keywords. Use it to connect key concepts.
OR finds results that use either of the keywords. Use it to connect synonyms/alternative words.

Watch this short video and understand more about Boolean Operators.


Use OR to combine synonyms & similar words:

Key Concept Synonyms Search


(Indigenous OR Aboriginal) 

Use AND to combine your key concepts together: 

(Indigenous OR Aboriginal) AND sustainability AND (worldview OR knowledge)

Phrase searching and truncation can also be helpful! 

Use “     “  to do phrase searching. It narrows the search to retrieve results in which the exact phrase appears, e.g. "Torres Strait Islander Peoples"

Use * at the end of a root word to search for variable endings of a root word, e.g. environment* can find environment, environmental, and environmentalism.

Step 4: Build effective searches 


You now have the keywords, synonyms, and connectors. You can build effective searches according to the previous steps.


  1. Indigenous AND sustain* AND worldview
  2. (Indigenous OR Aboriginal OR "First Nations Peoples") AND (sustain* OR "heritage protection") AND (worldview OR knowledge*)

Note: Searching is exploring.  You need to modify your searches as well as try different searches until you get relevant results.

Library Catalogue
The Library Catalogue is a good place to start your search. You can find many different information types in one search.

Step 5: Review your results


Not all the information you get from a search will be useful. A successful search will show results relevant to your topic. If your results are not relevant go back and try different keywords in your search.

Find relevant results by checking the: 

Even if your information is relevant, it might not be good quality. Check if it passes the C.R.A.P. Test before you use it. 

NOTE: if you are searching for Indigenous perspectives, make sure to add another layer of evaluation to the A for Authority. Ask yourself, does the author identify as an Indigenous person? Do they have the authority to share this knowledge?