What is a search strategy?
Searching databases in a consistent, structured manner will save you time. As your searching progresses and your searches are refined, your search history can be extremely useful. It can also improve the relevancy of results obtained, as you reflect on your keywords and synonyms and how these influence your search results.
To develop a search strategy you will need to:
- define and write down your research question - what is it that you are going to research?
- identify, and keep a record of key words, terms and phrases
- brainstorming your main discussion points to create concept/mind maps can help tease out themes and keywords
- identify keyword synonyms, use database Thesauri or Subject Headings;
- determine a timeframe from your research, if needed
- consider what type of material you will include and why
- identify where you will search for the information
From research question to search strategy
Different search strategies
Literature search cycle
Keeping a record of your search activity
Good search practice could involve keeping a search diary or document detailing your search activities (Phelps et. al. 2007, pp. 128-149), so that you can keep track of effective search terms, or to help others to reproduce your steps and get the same results.
This record could be a document, table or spreadsheet with:
- The names of the sources you search and which provider you accessed them through - eg Medline (Ovid), Web of Science (Thomson Reuters). You should also include any other literature sources you used.
- The search strategies that you applied when searching different sources (eg Medline, Web of Science) can be added as an appendix to your document. This provides additional detail on:
- The number of search results from each source and each strategy used. This can be the evidence you need to prove a gap in the literature, and confirms the importance of your research question.
A search planner may help you to organise you thoughts prior to conducting your search. If you have any problems with organising your thoughts prior, during and after searching please contact your Library Faculty Team for individual help.
Contact Your Faculty Team Librarian
Faculty librarians are here to provide assistance to students, researchers and academic staff by providing expert searching advice, research and curriculum support.