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Business Studies: 2. Plan your search

What is a search strategy?

A search strategy is a well thought out plan about how to search for the information you need for your assessment. Creating a plan will save you time and help you do effective searches. Keeping a record of your searches can also be useful.

To develop a search strategy you will need to:

  • define your assessment question - what is it that you are going to research?
  • identify key words, terms and phrases - called a Topic Analysis - concept/mind maps can help tease out themes and keywords
  • identify keyword synonyms
  • determine a timeframe from your research, if needed
  • consider what type material you will include and why
  • identify where you will search for the scholarly information

Common Search Tips

There are a number of techniques you can use while searching to get better and more relevant results.

Basic search

Basic search usually involves one search box, with a few options about searching a specific collection or field. This is great for general searching.

Advanced search

An advanced search is useful when you have multiple keywords or complex search queries. Advanced search usually involves several different boxes for your different keywords, built-in search operators, and more options for field searching and limiters.

Most databases will have a link to Advanced Search next to their Basic search option. Advanced Search in Google Scholar is accessible from the menu.

Search operators

Use these with your keywords to refine your searches and specify exactly what you want to find. These are most useful in journal databases and Primo Search.

Search Operator Example
Use AND to retrieve results that contain both of your search terms. taxation AND financial reporting
Use OR to retrieve results that contain any or all of your search terms. inflation OR growth
Using NOT to exclude irrelevant results. diversity NOT cultural
Group terms or equivalent keywords with parentheses to create complex searches. (tax OR taxation) AND financial reporting
Use quotation marks to search for a phrase

"legal system"

"project management"

Search for terms with different word endings using an asterisk. financ* = finance, financed, financing, financial
A question mark can be used to replace a single letter within a word.

organi?ation = organization or organisation

behavio?r = behaviour or behavior

Field searching and limiters

Most databases will allow you to specify which field you want to search. Common fields include author, title, dates, and subject headings/topic, and these are usually available in both basic and advanced search. 

Once you've searched, you can also limit or refine your results by some of these fields. This is extremely useful if you want all of your articles to have been published within a certain date range, or for them all to be peer-reviewed. Look for these in the menus beside your search results. 

Get better search results

Dictionaries and Encyclopaedias

To start searching, it can be useful to begin with an encyclopaedia, dictionary or handbook to get an overview of your topic, or an explanation of words or concepts that are unfamiliar.

Activity

Try combining some of your keywords using some common search tips.

  • Do you have similar terms to link with OR?
  • Do you have any phrases?
  • Can you combine two different terms with an AND?

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