Learn to search

Literature searching can be a time consuming process, but good searches can help you find valuable sources to shed light on and discuses your research question.

​​​​On this page we will go through the literature search process. The example search we use on this page is from the nursing field​​​.​

Search in Oria​​

​​To find literature a good place to start searching is in the ​library search system Oria.​ ​In Oria you can search in the library's printed ​and electronic resources. 

​Find suitable search​ terms for your subject or research question

You have​ an assignment where you have to write about: the effect of music therapy on dementia patients with anxiety​ and agitation.

It is not certain that the exact words in your assignment text, or in your research question, are the best search terms to search with. If you get few hits, you can find synonyms and related terms in textbooks or dictionaries.

Identify the keywords and ​put them in a table​

Research question:
What effect does music therapy have on dementia patients with anxiety and agitation?

In a table you create one column for each keyword/search term a research question. Synonyms and related terms, like anxiety and agitation, go in the same column.

Combine search terms​

If you have multiple search terms, you need to find out how you are going to combine them. With a search table you will clearly see how the search terms can be combined.

Each column in a table make up a search block. Synonyms and related terms are put in the same column, and they are combined with the Boolean operator OR when you are searching.

If you use a search table when searching you will get results that contain at least one word from each column in your table.

The order or the columns/search blocks does not matter when you are searching.

Important! When using the Boolean operators AND and OR make sure to use capital letters.

If you combine search terms with AND, you will get hits that contain both of these search terms.
Example: "music therapy" and dementia (will give hits that contain both of these search terms)


If you combine search terms with OR, you will get hits that contain at least one (or more) of these search terms. OR is used to include synonyms and related terms.
Example: anxiety and agitation (will give hits that contain at least one of these search terms)

You search like this with the Boolean operators:
​"music therapy" AND dementia AND (anxiety OR agitation)

Synonyms and related terms that are combined with OR is written inside a parenthesis​ in the complete search.

Improve your search

Did you get no results, too few results or too many results? Then you need to work with your search to improve or change it.

Too many results?

  • Refine your search by combining more search terms with AND for a more precise search.
  • Use more specific search terms. For example: music therapy instead of music.
  • Use the filters to narrow your results. You will often have filters for date, document type, language, subject, etc.

Too few results? - Go through this checklist

Check your search for typos
  • Not all search systems or databases will have an autocorrect function. Check your search and make sure all your search terms are spelled correctly.
Are you using the correct terminology?
  • If you are search for literature in a specific field of study, it is important that you use search terms that are actually used in these fields.
Are there alternative search terms?
  • If you find synonyms or related terms for your search terms you can combine them with the Boolean operator OR. When you combine multiple search terms with OR you expand your search, and increase the chance of getting hits. For example searching for both anxiety OR agitation.
Use fewer search blocks/combine fewer search terms with AND
  • This will make your search less specific, but will also make it easier to get results. If you have a very specific research question there is no guarantee you will find literature that ​​​focuses that exact subject. You will then have to think about alternative solutions and search for literature that focuses on parts of your research question.
Use more general search terms
  • Music therapy -> music
  • Anorexia nervosa -> eating disorders
  • Feel free to try out more general forms of your search terms and see if this gives you more hits.

Tips for literature searching

Quotation marks
  • Remember to use quotation marks when searching for search terms consisting of more than one word. Like music therapy = "music therapy"
  • When using truncation you search with the stem of a word to get all possible endings and variations of the word stem. Truncation will increase the amount of hits. The truncation sign is usually a star (*). Child*
  • Important! Many databases will automatically search for the different variations of words for you, and truncation will often be unnecessary.

Information sources​


A lot of people start with Google to get a quick overview of a subject. This can be a good start if you want a broad overview. Google will usually find an incredible amount of information, so using Google requires that you ​assess the information you find.​

Textbooks and other academic books

These sources will give you a basic introduction to a subject. If you are looking for information more closely related to a specific research question, it can be smart to look for scientific ​​articles, where the in​formation is centered around answering​​ a ​​research question. You will find the most recent research findings in scientific articles.

Scientific articles

A scientific article (also called research article or scholarly article) is based on research, and the purpose of the article is the present new research and give insight into academic research questions.​

Scientific articles will often showcase different perspectives and go more in depth in a specific subject than textbooks.

​Previous bachelor and master thesis

If you are starting on a bigger assignment it can be smart to look at earlier bachelor or master thesis. These papers can give you inspiration to how you can structure your own assignment. You can also find inspiration from looking at how other people have used sources in their papers, and what type of sources they used.

You can find previous bachelor and master thesis from Nord University in the open institutional archive Nord Open. To see previous papers from other colleges and universities you can search in NORA.