Before you begin looking for resources for your assignment or research, invest some time planning your search strategy. Spending a small amount of time now will save you time and frustration later.
This sounds obvious, but to begin searching you should be clear about the topic of your research or assignment.
If this is for an assessment, ensure you review your assessment instructions. You may already have received a topic, a statement or clues to guide your search.
So write down your summary and check that it's clear and focused.
Now highlight, underline or circle the keywords or main concepts in your summary. These words can help you build your search strategy and set parameters.
These can be synonyms, related words, abbreviations, acronyms and other words that are specific to your topic.
To discover synonyms, refer to a thesaurus (such as https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus) and see what other words could be used.
Now you have a strong basis for your search, it doesn't stop there.
Use Advanced Search to improve your search strategy. Create clever search strings using symbols and special characters to get better search results! More details about these advanced search techniques are in the section below.
This will help you plan your search properly and remember the techniques.
Download the planner below and follow the steps to create your own search strategy.
Create clever searches by adding your key words together to get more relevant results.
Phrase searching narrows a search to show results that contain an exact phrase e.g. "property valuation"
To conduct a phrase search, add double quote marks around two or more words you want to search for.
For example: searching for "real estate" will only return records that contain this exact term. The search will not return results where the word 'estate' or 'real' appear alone.
Truncation searching broadens a search to show results that include words with variation.
To conduct a truncation search, use an asterix character * to signify where the variation should exist.
Use this when you want to show results that include words with different endings. For example, searching for project* will return records that contain any of these words: 'project', 'projects', 'projection', 'projector', etc.
Truncation can also be useful when spelling variations exist. For example, searching for organi*ation will return records that contain either of these words: 'organisation', 'organization'.
Truncation searching is sometimes referred to as wildcard searching or stemming.
Boolean searching is a type of search that allows users to combine keywords with operators (such as AND, OR, NOT) to produce more relevant results
Using the word AND between two search terms narrows a search to show results containing both terms.
Conversely, using the word OR between two terms broadens a search to show results containing either term.
Using NOT will narrow your search by excluding certain results from your search, however as the video on the next tab shows it should be used with care as this technique can remove relevant results.
For further search tips have a look at this video.
When using resources it is important to know the source of the information. To evaluate, use a tool like the CRAAP test.
How current is the information?
Do you need current information, older sources or both?
When was the resource last updated?
If there are references and links, how current are they
Who is the intended audience?
Does it help me answer a question or solve a problem?
Will it lead to other information?
Does it provide evidence for or support my ideas?
What does it add to my work?
Who is the author, publisher, source or sponsor of the information?
Are the authors' and/or publishers' affiliations clear?
What is their reason for publishing the material?
For websites, does the domain of the URL tell you anything about the author or source (.gov, .edu, .com, .org)
Where does the information come from?
Is the information supported by evidence?
Can that evidence be verified if necessary?
Are there spelling, grammar or other errors?
Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
What is the purpose of the information?
Is the information factual or opinion?
Is the information biased?
Is the information to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
Is the website sponsored or influenced by advertising revenue?