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Developing Your Search Strategy
A search strategy is an organised structure of key terms used to search a database. The search strategy combines the key concepts of your search question in order to retrieve accurate results.
Your search strategy will account for all:
- possible search terms
- keywords and phrases
- truncated and wildcard variations of search terms
- subject headings (where applicable)
Each database works differently so you need to adapt your search strategy for each database. You may wish to develop a number of separate search strategies if your research covers several different areas.
It is a good idea to test your strategies and refine them after you have reviewed the search results.
- Words, phrases, and terms we use to describe the main concepts, ideas, people, events, and issues we are researching
Keywords are not...
- Whole statements: Causes of cancer
- Questions: What are the causes of skin cancer?
Finding Synonyms for Keywords
Concepts can be expressed in different ways eg “self-esteem” might be referred to as “self-worth”. Your aim is to consider each of your concepts and come up with a list of the different ways they could be expressed.
To find alternative keywords or phrases for your concepts try the following:
- Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms.
- Search for your concepts on a search engine like Google Scholar, scanning the results for alternative words and phrases.
- Examine relevant abstracts or articles for alternative words, phrases and subject headings (if the database uses subject headings).
When you've done this, you should have lists of words and phrases for each concept
Keywords - Related Terms
Use related terms that are connected to your topic but have a different meaning
Find ideas by doing light research with general keywords
Developing Keywords - Video
Search Using Keywords - Video