Developing a robust search strategy will help reduce irrelevant results. You should plan a strategy before you commence searching. However, you will find this strategy progresses over time.
1. Identify key terms
- Break the topic into the main concepts; these will translate into keywords.
- Think of synonyms or alternative terms for the keywords.
- Use truncation (* or ?) to catch all forms of a word, eg. educat* (for further information see Improve your search)
2. Combine using Boolean operators
- Link keywords using AND to find documents containing all the keywords.
- Link synonyms with OR to find any of the alternative terms.
- Use NOT to exclude terms from the search.
A short introduction to Boolean operators created by Lincoln Memorial University.
3. Refine search
- For too many results, limit search by adding more keywords linked by AND.
- Use more specific keywords, or search specific fields (e.g. terms in title).
- Limit your search by year, article type, peer-reviewed, language etc.
- If there are few relevant results, include more alternative terms with OR.
- Look at the subject terms for a relevant item for links to similar resources