You will need to do some background reading on your topic. This will allow you to become familiar with the key terms or words that other researchers use when writing about your topic. Using these words and terms in your searches will help you to find relevant information.
Consider the scope of your search by thinking about the type of assignment that you are being asked to complete. For example, a 1000 word essay will require less material than a 5000 word literature review, so planning your search can really help to focus your search and make doing your assignments less frustrating.
Once you draft your question or select your topic you should develop your keyword strategy. This is an important step because databases and search engines use keywords to maximize results. Remember to use synonyms and alternative keywords to ensure that you capture all the relevant information.
You can find alternative keywords in:
Please have a look at this short video for further details.
Below is a worked example of a keyword strategy.
Sample research topic: How to motivate doctoral students in third level education
Keywords: How to motivate doctoral students in third level education
Develop synonyms or alternative keywords:
Searches that use Boolean operators to combine keywords will produce more effective search results than sentences.
AND, OR and NOT are the most popular Boolean operators. Many databases, including the library Discovery Search, offer drop down menus with a choice of AND, OR, NOT.
For example the search; motivation AND (academics OR students) will retrieve results that contain information about motivating academics or motivating students. However the search; motivation AND academics OR students won't necessarily combine motivation with student.
The Boolean search for "How to motivate doctoral students in third level education" could look like this.
There are many different types of information resources. Students and researchers can use a combination of resources when completing assignments or research. Some of the most widely used sources are described below.
The literature review provides the foundation for your research. It is important that the information you use as part of your review is of a high standard and accurate. Below is an initial criteria for selecting material. Individual resources will then need to be further analysed and evaluated.
Quality & Accuracy
The default Boolean term for a database or search engine (unless otherwise stated) is AND. For example, a search for -information technology- will be interpreted as information AND technology. However, if you want to search for information on the topic - information technology, put inverted commas around both words, "information technology". Phrased searching should decrease the number of results you retrieve but increase the relevance of those results.
Wildcard & Truncation
Wildcards (?/#) allow you to search for the American and British spellings of words. For example, a search for the word behavio?r, will include both behaviour and behavior. You can also use # to include plurals of of words like man or men by using m#n.
Truncation (*) allows you to include variations of a word. For example, teach*, will include teachers, teacher, teaching and teach.