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Developing your search strategy: Develop your search strategy

Helpful files

Before begining your search, identify and write down the important concepts for your research topics. You can arrange these concept in columns, and under each column write down alternative terms or phrases that may also be used to represent that concept.

Then, combine these concepts & determine where to start your search.

Below are files to help you develop your search strategy and determine where to start searching:


Developing your search strategy

The first step in any search for information is to develop a search strategy.

A search strategy is a plan on how you will look for information to suit your research needs.

Why a search strategy? It helps you to

  • Articulate your research topic & research question
  • Remain consistent in your search from one search tool to the next
  • Find a large amount of relevant information
  • Save time and energy in the long run

A search strategy will evolve along the way as your research evolves.

Steps to develop a search strategy

Below are the steps to develop a search strategy:

  • Identify key concepts and alternative terms for your research topic [worksheet]
  • Combine these concepts/terms using connectors. Also use wildcards, truncation symbols, parentheses, and phrase searching [more search tips]
  • Determine where to start searching [more]
  • Build on what you have found

Building on what you have found

After finding something relevant, you can base your continuing search on what you have already found to get addtional relevant information. In fact, every relevant book, journal article or database record is an introduction to new information for you.

  • Library books with the same subject, call number as the book you find may be useful for you as well. They may be shelved together.
  • Subject headings, keywords or subject descriptors on a database record you find will point you to other articles published on the same subject.
  • Bibliographies and references in books or articles you find may relate you to other sources relevant to your search.