Searching for Evidence

Why you should probably give up Google

Best ways to conduct a search when you're wanting to find evidence to support your argument.

There's nothing worse than marking an assignment at university level and the words 'Wikipedia' are emblazoned in the reference list. Unfortunately, as much as you may think I am joking, I've seen it more than a few times. Truth be told, using search engines and Wikipedia can help to provide a glimpse at a general overview of the content you're researching but please never include it in your reference list.

So instead of Google, how do you search for evidence. Well, most if not all universities have a link (For example which enables you to search for evidence and will link your search through a variety of library databases for that particular university and all their fields of study.

However, an even better solution is to find subject guides for your particular field of study and the universities often have a link to the various databases that are useful for your particular field. As you become more experienced and progress within your studies, you'll develop the ability to know which particular databases are more useful depending upon what you need to find for your assessment.


Without going into too much detail a very brief introduction of a few key concepts notably truncation, wildcards and boolean operators. However, you should previously have considered your search terms and defined key words before you take this next step.

Truncation - useful for finding singular / plural forms of words or endings:

Nurs* - Nurs-ing, Nurs-es etc

Often a * (asterisk) symbol is used however this may vary depending upon the database.

Wildcards - useful for finding variations in spelling across British and American English

Colo?r - Color and colour

Often a ? symbol is used however this may vary depending upon the database.

Boolean operators - OR, AND, NOT:

Obviously varies depending upon the context but allows you to find topic AND/OR/NOT topic which can be helpful to find specific areas of literature.

Lastly, whichever database you search through always ensure you click the following filter options:

Peer review - means the literature has been validated by someone else considered an expert in the field

Full text online - meaning you are able to view the entire paper rather than just an abstract

English - For obvious reasons

Years - Often <5 years or <10 years however old literature isn't necessarily 'bad evidence' depends on the context. Please see the first blog post for detailed discussion on this point.

Much of this discussion has focused upon journal articles or periodicals. But don't forget the value of textbooks and other materials that you can consult. However, often rubrics look for 'Primary Literature' which refers to journal articles or periodicals. Happy hunting.