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Research Skills: Constructing your search

A guide to help you improve your research skills: make the most of your time to find and retrieve the information you need.

Overview - Finding Information: Constructing your search

This guide provides a series of steps, each with information and guidance, to help you plan, executive and record an effective search strategy, to make efficient use of your time. It covers:

  1. Defining your research question: How to break down your research question in to key concepts around which you can construct a search, and defining the keywords to describe each of the concepts you have identified.
  2. Broadening your search: Tips on "casting your nets wide" to make sure don't unintentionally miss any potentially useful results.
  3. Narrowing your search: Tips and tools to ensure your search returns only those results which are most relevant to your research needs.
  4. Constructing your search: How to pull all of your keywords and tools together to construct a logical and efficient search strategy.
  5. Making your search results work for you: An overview of the next steps you can take, including citation searching, email alerts and altmetrics.
  6. Database examples: Practical examples of each of the tools identified in previous sections, and how they work in some of our most well used online academic databases and search engines.

1) Key Concepts & Keywords

The guide below outlines the initial steps of analysing a question, breaking it down to clearly identify the core concepts around which to construct a more complete search. You may already do this subconsciously, but pausing to reflect can help form a structured approach to your research.

3) Narrowing your search

The guide below outlines the tools available to you when constructing a search to ensure your search returns the most relevant results, and tools to help filter out some of the results you don't otherwise need to see.

5) Making your search results work for you

The guide below provides some tips and guidance on what to consider once you have identified some relevant and useful results; how to automate some of your search activity, to explore related research and commentary.

2) Broadening your search

The guide below outlines the tools available to you when constructing a search to ensure you don't miss any key results simply because the author has used different terminology or spellings to what keywords you use in your search.

4) Search Construction

The guide below provides an overview of how to combine and construct the different elements of your search strategy to ensure you return the most relevant results, and how to evaluate your search approach and the results it returns.

6) Database Examples

Effective Searching Checklist

Print or download our (2 page, A4) guide showing examples of the different tools you can use in our most heavily used databases, including Web of Science, Scopus, Ebsco, Proquest, Westlaw UK, LexisNexis, Discover and Google Scholar.

Databases Guide

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