Before you begin looking for resources for your assignment or project, focus on planning your search strategy. A little time spent on this now will save you time and frustration later. Here are the steps:
This sounds obvious, but to begin searching you should be clear about the topic of your assignment or project.
If this is for an assessment, ensure you read your assessment instructions carefully. You may already have received a topic, a statement or clues for search terms to guide your search.
Write down a summary of your topic and check that it's clear and focused. This will help guide you in the sort of information you are looking for.
Highlight, underline or circle the keywords or main concepts in your summary. These words can help you build your search strategy and set parameters.
Authors will use different terminology for the same concept so it's important to think of alternative words for each of your concepts. These can be synonyms, related words, abbreviations, acronyms and other words that are specific to your topic.
For synonyms, refer to a thesaurus (such as https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus) and see what other words could be used.
Doing this will ensure that you don't miss out on any useful articles that you might otherwise miss if you only use one or two search terms.
Now you have a strong basis for your search, it doesn't stop there.
Improve your search strategy using special characters and symbols to create clever search strings. There is more detail about these advanced techniques in the section below.
This will help you properly plan your search and remind you of some of the search techniques.
Download the planner below and follow the steps to create your own search strategy.
Use these advanced search techniques to improve your search results.
Phrase searching narrows a search to show results that contain an exact phrase.
This is useful when you want to search for a certain string of words.
To conduct a phrase search, add double quote marks around two or more words you want to search for.
For example: searching for "portrait photography" will only return records that contain this exact term. The search will not return results where the word "portrait" or "photography" appear separately.
Truncation and wildcard searching broadens a search to show results that include words with variant endings or spellings.
To conduct a truncation search, use an asterix character * to indicate where the variant ending starts.
For example, searching for photograph* will return records that contain any of these words: photograph, photographic, photography, photographer.
Wildcard searching, using the symbol '?", is useful for words that have slight differences in spelling e.g. 'women' and 'woman', 'organisation' and 'organization'. Insert the ? to replace the variant letter to retrieve both versions of a word, e.g. wom?n; organi?ation.
Boolean searching allows you 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.
Useful keywords for searching might include:
Try Advanced Search for more precise results -
In the above search, we included the film title, and director's name. Psych* will search for all word endings after the * - ie psychology, psychiatry, etc.
Usually, searching via the film title or director is a good starting point. Sometimes, for more contemporary films or less well known films or directors, there may only be a few academic articles or books published about that film or filmmaker. In these cases, you will need to find articles and books about similar films or themes, and apply these to the film you are analysing or writing about.