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Advanced Searching: Identifying Search Terms

mySearch tutorial

mySearch tutorial

 

Identifying Search Terms

Before you begin your search you need to be clear about what you are trying to find. Normally a search problem is expressed as a single sentence that describes what your research will try to find out. What are the key concepts you’re interested in?

For example, the statement ‘How is social media being used in Higher Education to enhance learning?’ can be divided into three concepts:

Concept 1

Concept 2

Concept 3

social media

Higher Education

learning

The number of concepts affects the number of results you find.  Adding more concepts will produce fewer results, but they will be more closely focused on your subject.

It is good practice to think about how you might add or delete concepts from your search as a technique for finding more or fewer results.

When considering concepts it is necessary to think carefully about the subject, for example, consider:

o   What is the phenomenon i.e. what subject are you interested in?

o   Is there a time element: e.g. at the weekend, in the Neolithic, in the 21st century, in summer.

o   Is there a spatial element, a particular setting or environment e.g. in England, in the workplace, underwater.

o   Is there a particular demographic - race, gender, age, religion e.g. aboriginal, women, teenagers, Hindu.

o   Are you interested in a particular intervention, tool, policy or technology e.g. chemotherapy, radar, quantitative easing.

o   Are you researching a particular condition or problem e.g. inflation, diabetes, bullying.

o   Other concepts e.g. how effective it is? What’s the risk? etc.

 

Having identified concepts, you need to identify keywords that describe those concepts because you do not know that the authors of the literature have used the same keywords as you.  Think about:

 

o   Synonyms, different words that might be used to mean the same thing e.g. higher education or university?  

o   Consider more specific or broader terms that might be used e.g. social media, Facebook, internet

o   Consider different word forms that might have been used, e.g. plural word forms like university OR universities

 

Using the example ‘How is social media being used in Higher Education to enhance learning?’ you might add in the following keywords to your lists of concepts:

 

Concept 1

Concept 2

Concept 3

social media

Higher Education

learning

Keywords

Keywords

Keywords

Facebook

internet

university

teaching

Further help

For more help on how to search and how to construct a literature review see our LibGuides: