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Search and evaluate information

The search process

Here we will go through the various steps in the search process. You also get practical tips on search techniques and what you should consider so that your searches yield more relevant hits.

The search process

Searching for information is a process that often takes longer than what you originally planned. During the entire search process, it is important to be creative and open to changing your search strategy, for example finding new keywords or changing search services. Plan and document your search and it will be more effective. Remember that this is not a linear process, but you will certainly have to find new keywords, test different search services and maybe even have to reformulate your question.

1. Formulate your research question

Start by writing down a few sentences that summarize what you are looking for. Identify, define and analyze your subject area. Making a mind map could help with visualization.

The library has a large selection of encyclopedias and handbooks that can be helpful. The encyclopedia Britannica online is general and provides shorter introductions to most subjects, AccessScience has a technical and scientific focus and here you will find more detailed texts.

2. Find keywords

It is important when searching for information that you use the right keywords to get as many relevant hits as possible. Start with the problem statement and try to find useful terms, concepts and words. Are there synonyms? Academic concepts? Most databases have English as the default search language, so you need to translate your keywords into English. Use dictionaries such as Wordfinder Online.

As you progress further along in the search process, you will most likely find additional subject terms, more synonyms, etc. Fill in your mind map and try new searches with these keywords!

3. Choose search service

What kind of information are you looking for? Books or magazine articles? Scientific journals or trade journals? Answering these questions will help you determine where you will search for the information.

For an initial scoping search, you can use the library's search box and delimit the results by adding search filters. You can find scientific databases in the database list. Check also your subject guide for subject-specific resources.

5. Conduct the search

Search in selected search service. Use advanced search to combine your keywords and construct search strings. Read more under the Search techniques tab.

5. Evaluate search technique and sources

Skim through your results. Read through the abstract to see what seems relevant to you. You can place a request in the library and borrow printed material. In the case of electronic material, there is a link to the full text in most databases. If the library does not have the book or article in its collections, you can order it free of charge.

Too few hits: double check and perhaps remove keywords, add synonyms, remove filters, try another database.

Too many hits: add more keywords and synonyms, add more filters, try using s controlled vocabulary/thesaurus.

6. Save and organize your sources

When you have selected the sources you want to use, it is a good idea to save all the documents in one place so that you can easily access and retrieve them again. If you have many sources, a reference management program such as Mendeley and EndNote may be for you. For those who write in LaTeX using Overleaf, we recommend Mendeley, with the bibliography management package BibLaTex.