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Module Four - Continuing your search

Refine your search

Well done! Now you have a list of results.

If these look useful you can start reading and evaluating what you have found. Otherwise, there are several ways to refine or expand your search.

Boolean operators

    Watch this video: Boolean operators (4:51)

When searching the databases you can combine your search words and phrases. Although database search screens may look different, most of them work using the Boolean Operators AND, OR, and NOT. These operators are used to narrow or expand your search.

 ANDAll words must be found in each result: shipping AND logistics finds results containing both words.Narrows your search. Fewer results.
 ORThe results of your search must contain at least one of the words: environment OR nature finds results containing either of the words.Expands your search. More results.
 NOTResults must not include a specific word: property NOT intellectual finds results but not those containing the word intellectual.Narrows your search. Fewer results.

Expand or narrow your search using other techniques

If the results are not what you want, you might need to rethink your search.

Advanced searching

Advanced searching is a matter of following tracks and changing direction if you are not finding good results. Source: Britannica Image QuestUse some of the techniques below to improve your searches.

Use the features of the databases to enhance results and increase relevancy:

  • Subject headings: If you have found a relevant reference on a database look at the record. It will usually include subject headings - searching using these subject headings should help find other papers on the same topic.
  • Keywords: Words used in the text of the paper, or provided by the author, may be useful search terms to find similar papers.
  • Author names: A researcher who has written a paper on a topic may have written other papers on related topics. Use the author name as a starting point.
  • References: The list of references at the end of your starting paper may include papers on the same topic. These papers are older than your starting paper so looking at them involves moving backward through the literature.
  • Citations: Many databases will provide lists of papers that cite your starting paper and include it in their list of references. These may be on the same or related topics. Citing papers are more recent than your starting paper so looking at them involves moving forward through the literature.

Think about some other sources which you might not have considered:

  • Theses can be a rich source of references and methodologies. To find theses from the University of Auckland or from overseas universities, see Finding theses and dissertations.
  • Multidisciplinary databases. Try a database which covers a number of disciplines.
  • Google Scholar is a scholarly collection, with citations and author affiliations to help you identify key writers and organisations in your interest field. Use Google Scholar through the Library's website to get articles to which the library already subscribes.
  • Open access resources and repositories make it easy to search and locate full-text articles. The guide to Open Access information will help you find search engines and freely available material, which is usually academic in nature.

Other techniques

  • Use Advanced search options in search engines. They will improve relevancy.
  • If you can get a list of key journals in the discipline use this as a starting point.

Obtaining, recording and citing your search results

Database results

Your search results will often be displayed as a list of citations. A citation should provide enough information for someone to be able to locate the original publication. For example, a citation for a journal article normally includes: author(s), article title, journal/newspaper title, volume, issue, publication date, and page that the article appeared on.

Buller, P. F., & McEvoy, G. M. (2012). Strategy, human resource management and performance: Sharpening line of sight. Human Resource Management Review, 22(1), 43-56.

Obtaining the articles

In many cases the article will be in the database you are searching. But if the database has only got a citation but not the full-text article, there are several options to get the full text.

Tip: Some articles from New Zealand magazines and newspapers are not available online. For help with finding the print version, use this handy guide - Finding NZ business magazines and newspapers.

Keeping records of your research

When searching it is important to keep careful note of the information you find. Make sure you record where you have found the references and record details such as the author, title, source, and in the case of internet resources the URL and the date you have accessed the sites. You will need these details for your reference list.

Tip: Tools such as RefWorks, EndNote or Zotero are programmes for storing and managing references and they can help keep your search records organised. Read more about these tools on the Referencing page.


If you are using other people's writing or ideas, whether you paraphrase in your own words or quote directly within your assignment or essay, you need to cite the source. The reader can then track the source down if they are interested in looking at it.

This is called referencing, and to reference, you follow a particular style. The style determines how the references are to be presented. Academics and students are expected to use a recognised, consistent style for citing work.

If you do not acknowledge your sources of information, you are guilty of plagiarism.

This is dealt with in more depth in Module 6.

Reference styles

The Business School uses the APA referencing style.

If you are also doing courses in other faculties, they might use another style such as MLA, Harvard, Chicago or NZLSG (New Zealand Law Style).

APA Style

APA style, from the American Psychological Association, consists of citing within the body of written work (referred to as in-text citation) and creating a reference list. APA has rules for citing all types of materials; books, journal articles, web sites, TV programmes and other media.

ReferenCite is the University's central academic referencing resource. Quickcite is a tool to preview how your reference should be cited according to APA style.

Tip: See the comprehensive guide, APA Referencing: A guide for business students. It includes help with citing lecturers' notes, and online course material.


The information cycle shows the steps involved in searching for information.

Test yourself

Well done! You have now completed Module Four on refining your search and managing your information. Have a go at the quick quiz to see how much you have learnt.

Some questions may have more than one correct answer.

1. If you are not getting enough results in your search you could

2. If you are getting too many results in your search you could

3. How can you locate the full text of an article you are interested in reading?

4. What are the names of two tools you can use to store and manage your references?

5. What is the name of the website that can help you with your referencing?

6. Why is it important to cite and reference other people's work correctly?

7. Which referencing style used at the University of Auckland Business School?

Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT. They are used to indicate the relationship between different search words.

AND means all words must be found in each result.

OR means results must find at least one of the search words.

NOT means all results must not include a specific word.

The list at the end of a document which includes only those sources actually mentioned (cited) in the document.

Re-stating another author's ideas using your own words.
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