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Sports and Exercise Science: 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.gSwim(this will find swim, swims, swimmers, swimming 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.gsports AND massage
  • Using brackets allows you to perform quite sophisticated searches. this is especially relevant to internet searching e.g. ("sports massage" AND "massage therapy") AND rehabilitation

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 

Proximity searching

Proximity searching is a way to search for two or more words that occur within a certain number of words from each other. The proximity operators are composed of a letter (N or W) and a number (to specify the number of words). The number cannot exceed 255.

The proximity operator is placed between the words that are to be searched, as follows:

  • Near Operator (N): N5 finds the words if they are a maximum of five words apart from one another, regardless of the order in which they appear. For example, type tax N5 reform to find results that have a maximum of five words between the beginning and ending terms, that would match tax reform as well as tax that has been submitted for reform or reform of income tax .

  • Within Operator (W): W8 finds the words if they are within eight words of one another, in the order in which you entered them. For example, type tax W8 reform to find results that would match tax reform but would not match reform of income tax.

In addition, multiple terms can be used on either side of the operator. See the following examples:

  • (tax OR tariff) N5 reform
  • oil W3 (disaster OR clean-up OR contamination)
  • (baseball OR football OR basketball) N5 (teams OR players)

Exclude words/topics

  • To exclude topics which are irrelevant or not wanted use NOT between the words e.gJaguar NOT car
  • 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*

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