Searching effectively just means knowing how to construct a good search string that will bring you relevant results in an efficient way. This just means more good results with less time spent searching.
The first step is to identify your keywords. In a topic such as "issues in light of the proposed Continental Free Trade Area (CTFA) in Africa for regional economic communities (REC)", you wouldn't type that whole sentence into any database as it is too specific. So you would identify the following as keywords / concepts:
continental free trade area
CTFA - acronyms are sometimes used instead of the full word so search for these as well
regional economic communities
The best way to achieve effective searching is to use your keywords and terms and connectors. All databases use boolean operators and terms and connectors that can maximise your searching. These can usually be found under 'search help' on the database, but the basics are universal:
AND - combines two concepts / keywords on either side of the word, and returns only results with both concepts in it
eg. for looking for resources on issues within trade: issues AND trade
OR - looks for either of the two concepts / keywords in the results
eg. for looking for either REC or regional economic community: REC OR "Regional Economic Community"
NOT - excludes a concept / keyword from the search
eg. For excluding America from the search for CTFAs: CTFA NOT America
Terms and connectors:
" " - using these indicates a phrase, and looks for the two words next to each other
eg. "regional integration" or "continental free trade area"
/s; /p; /n - these are proximity searches for words, either within the same sentence, the same paragraph, or within a specific number
eg. regional integration within Africa in the same sentence: "regional integration" /s Africa
regional integration and CTFAs in the same paragraph: "regional integration" /p CTFA
regional integration and RECs within 10 words of each other: "regional integration" /10 REC
These combine searches into one search. For example: 'issues in relation to RECs or regional economic communities' can be constructed into the following search string:
issues AND (REC OR "regional economic communities")
so now your search will reflect results from the search: issues AND REC as well as the search: issues AND "regional economic communities"