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Physics: Plan your Search

This guide provides an overview of key resources available for Physics, and some strategies to effectively find high quality information.

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: Identify your key concepts


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

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

Here is an example:

What nanomaterials can be used for energy saving in Australia?

The key concepts are: 

Nanomaterials Energy saving Australia

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. 

We recommend brainstorming your keywords in a table like the one shown below.


Nanomaterials  Energy saving Australia


Smart materials

Nano material

Nano particles

Energy consumption

Energy efficiency




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Some resources to help with brainstorming: 

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

Step 3: Build your search


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

Use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords & synonyms into a search. You can build multiple searches using different synonyms & keywords.


Use OR to combine synonyms & similar words:

Key Concept Keywords & Synonyms Search



Smart materials

(Nanomaterial* OR

Nanotechnology OR
Nanoparticle OR

Smart materials)

Use AND to combine your key concepts together: 

(Nanomaterial* OR Nanotechnology OR Nanoparticle OR "Smart materials") AND (energy sav* OR energy efficien* or energy consum*) AND (Australia OR Oceania)

lightening bolt


  • Use “quotation marks” for exact phrases, “smart materials”
  • Use truncation character “*” to broaden the search, e.g. sav* will search save, saving, savvy 

Step 4: Start searching


You will need to find different types of information during your studies. These may include: 

  • Books & book chapters
  • Journal articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Standards & statistics
  • Reports
  • Grey literature

The type of information you are looking for will determine where you search, and how you search. 

Using the steps above will help you find most of these information types, but there are also other places to look.

Explore this study guide or ask a librarian to discover more. 

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.