Once you’ve decided on your search tool(s) and your search strategy, you can start searching for the information you need.
You will find that you might have to change search tools, or your keywords depending on the results you get. Don’t be put off if your search strategy isn’t immediately successful. Don’t be afraid to try out different search techniques, or search tools. Successful searchers adapt their strategies depending on the type of information they need, how much, in what format, and whether the tool they use is the most efficient in finding what they want.
As we said before, becoming a really effective searcher takes practice. Keep the search checklist in mind:
- Prepare your search
- consider the type of material you wish to access
- choose the most appropriate search tool(s)
- Plan your search strategy
- identify key terms and authors
- think of alternatives for your terms
- use search operators to combine your terms
- Do(execute) the search
- review the results in order to improve / refine the search
When you review your results ask yourself if the information is relevant to your search strategy, of the appropriate level, published in the relevant time-frame, and is accessible to you.
If you have too many references:
- browse results and select references of interest
- narrow your search by adding key terms / focusing on a specific aspect of a subject
- limit your search e.g. by year or language
- specify that one or more of your key terms must be in the title of the article
If you have too few references:
- check your search – have you forgotten any alternative words, spellings etc?
- broaden your search by omitting one of your key terms
- search more years / further back in the literature
- search other database(s)
- look at cited references and/or related references
The next pages highlight the criteria you should use when critically evaluating any type of information.