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Information Essentials: Smart searching

Search smarter

Searching smarter isn't just about time-saving, it's also crucial for finding the most valuable information to help write your assignment.

Don't hesitate to turn to Google as your first step when seeking information on a topic. It can serve as an excellent starting point, offering a wealth of knowledge to help you grasp the basics and gain background information on your topic.

Note: It's important to keep in mind that most of the content Google "indexes" (that is, analyses and returns as results) is webpages, which means it excels at searching websites and web-based content. When it comes to locating scholarly articles and reports, which are often crucial for assignments, other tools will be more effective. Non-Google search tools such as databases will provide you with a broader range of academic materials, that go beyond what Google can offer.

What about Google Scholar? 

Google Scholar only indexes scholarly articles from certain databases and publishers that allow their data to be publicly searched. This becomes a bit problematic because a significant portion of academic information is actually hidden behind subscriptions and paywalls (meaning the publisher only allows paying customers to see their content), so only using Google Scholar will limit what you find. Not only that, but there's also a huge amount of valuable academic content that isn't even published digitally, so Google Scholar can't index it. Luckily as an ECU student you have access to ECU Library Search. It covers a wide range of resources, including both free and paywalled information, which includes digital content and print resources. 


It's essential to search a database that aligns with your field of study, because databases are curated collections of material that fit a certain purpose, which is usually to gather information on a particular topic. You may need to do a little detective work in order to select the perfect database for your topic.

A great place to start is ECU Library's collection of databases that indexes a wide range of journals, ebooks, conference papers, and standards in multiple disciplines. Visit the Databases: Scholarly materials page in Module 1 for instructions on how to access the ECU database list.

Keyword searching helps you search faster. By knowing which search terms or phrases to use for your topic will get you the best results and save time. So, take a moment to brainstorm and identify keywords that perfectly capture your topic.

See also

How Google and Search Engines Work by Mutt Cutts (former Google Engineer)