Searching for resources
Finding useful sources of information is an important part of your course. Our guide takes you through how to achieve search success.
Finding the right search term
Pick out the subject words from the title and search for just those. In the following example, you would just search for the words in bold: What is the effect of climate change on the tourism industry in Australia?
Some subject areas require a very structured approach to searching, with a documented account of your search words and how they link together. Please refer to your own programme's requirements for this. Common approaches for coming up with the initial search question include PICO in Health.
Adapting your search
If your original search is providing too few or too many results, try these changes:
Not enough results
- Think of alternative words with the same or similar meanings
- Think of a concept that is a little wider than your original choice
- Change the search tool you are using
Too many results
- Add more keywords to your search
- Check the dates of the results and re-order the results list to most recent first
Remember that search tools can be literal and need to be told exactly what you mean. There are established shortcuts to help with this. Common ones include:
- - Using an asterisk (*) at the end of a stem of a word to find any ending. For example, learn* will automatically search for learners, learning, learned, learnt, etc.;
- - Using a hashtag (#) to find words with alternative spellings. For example, colo#r will find both colour and color;
- - Putting words you want to find together in quotation marks. For example, "higher education", "global warming".
Keeping track of your search
Keeping a record of your search will form part of your methods and data collection if you are doing a research project which has a critical literature review as its methodology. Even if you are using another form of data collection, keeping a record of your search and including it in your dissertation will be useful.
There are options in most online search tools for saving and sharing what you have done. The following documents may be useful templates:
Template for documenting a literature search (.docx 15.0 kB)
Template for documenting multiple searches in one overview (.docx 17.1kB)