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Built Environment: Search Tips

Getting better search results

When searching the Internet or library resources, get the best search results by using some of these search tips:

Broaden your search

  • To provide more results (expand) use OR between the keywords. This is useful when something can be described in different ways e.gUSA OR America


  • Broaden your search by using the stem of a word and an asterisk* to find variant endings e.gComput(this will find computers, computer, computing, computerisation, computation etc).


  • Use a question mark ? to find different spellings e.g. organi?ation (finds organization and organisation)

Narrow your search

  • To add 2 topics together use AND between the keywords e.gnetwork AND security


  • Using brackets allows you to perform quite sophisticated searches. this is especially relevant to internet searching e.g. ("human computer interaction" AND "interface design") AND software

Search for a phrase

  • To ensure that words always appear together as a phrase, enclose with “quotation marks” e.g“human computer interaction"

Academic sources

  • In order to find information on a specified subject which originates from academic sources such as University websites, include +ac (British) or +edu (USA) to your search e.g. "project management" +ac 

Exclude words/topics

  • To exclude topics which are irrelevant or not wanted use NOT between the words e.gComputer games NOT video


  • minus sign (-) can also be used to exclude a term when searching the Internet e.g. to find information on Apple computers and not apples (fruit), enter Apple -fruit

Exact match

  • Many search engines on the Internet find synonyms automatically i.e. they will find center if you have searched for centre. Use a plus symbol (+) or "quotation marks" to ensure a specific spelling of a word is found e.g. +Excel or "Excel"


  • To find similar websites to one that you have already found use Related: e.g. Related: will find other websites which are similar to the British Computer Society's website


  • Use site: to search within certain types of websites with either a specified subject (e.g. design)  or domain (e.g. academic websites) eg. to search for statististics in maths or academic websites use Statistics site: maths or Statistics site: ac

Getting answers

  • To find a definition of something use Define: e.g. to find a definition of Bayesian statistical modelling use Define: "Bayesian statistical modelling"


  • To get an answer to a question use an asterisk e.g. to find out what Alan Turing developed enter Alan Turing developed*