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Health Science: Plan Your Search

This guide contains resources and guidance to help students completing the Bachelor of Health Science.

Why plan your search?


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 in a particular way to get good results.

Use this page to learn how to plan your search and find the best scholarly information sources to use. 

Step 1: Starting your assignment


Your first step before you find any information is figuring out what your assignment is asking you and what your topic is about. 

The following video shows you how to break down your assessment and get started brainstorming keywords you can use. 

It's also important to understand what scholarly information means as you may be asked to use this for your assignments. Scholarly information may also be described as academic or peer-reviewed.

Here's a video to help you understand the differences:

Step 2: Identify your key concepts


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


How successful are Australian public health campaigns for healthier diets?  

The key concepts are: 

diet public health campaigns Australia

Step 3: 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. 


diet public health campaigns Australia

healthy diet


eating habits

health promotion

health advocacy

health campaign



lightening bolt


Some resources to help with brainstorming: 

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

Step 4: Building your search


Once you have all your keywords, you can combine them and start searching : 

Use OR to combine synonyms & similar words:

Key Concept Keywords & Synonyms Search

health* diet


"eating habits"

("health* diet" OR nutrition OR "eating habits")

Use AND to combine your key concepts together: 

("healthdiet" OR nutrition* OR "eating habits") AND ("public health campaign*" OR "health promotion"AND Austral* 

Have a look through the tabs below to see how we put everything together:

Boolean Operators are a way of telling a database or search engine how to do your search.

You can use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords & synonyms into a search. Watch the video below to learn how.

Truncation is a searching shortcut represented by an asterisk (*).

It tells the database to find all possible endings of a word. This trick is very useful if you have many similar sounding keywords. 

For example,  health* will find health, healthy and healthier.

However, you need to be careful where you place the *. If you truncate a term too early, you may also be including many irrelevant terms.

For example, rating* will find rating and ratings, but if you truncate it too early at rat* you will get rat, rate, rats, rates, ratio and more!

Phrase Searching should be used when you are searching for an exact phrase or you have a keyword that is more than one word (for example, eating habits). 

To tell a database that you want to search for the exact phrase, you need to put the phrase inside quotation marks for example, "eating habits"

If you searched for eating habits without quotation marks, you would get results for eating and habits as well as eating. However, if you search for "eating habits" you will only get results with those two words mentioned together, which means that they will be more useful to you.

Step 6: 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.