Searching For Information
Now that you have planned your search strategy and have chosen which tools to use, you can begin searching.
- Before you begin searching, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the search tool you will be using. Online search tools vary somewhat in the way they look and operate. However, most offer similar searching capabilities. Because there are slight variations in how a search is performed in different tools, you may want to read the database's help file to learn how to enter your search strategy.
- Once you have familiarised yourself with the tool, you should decide which type of search you want to perform. Some databases will also offer more advanced searching options, such as the ability to search for books and articles aimed at a particular audience or the publisher of an item. To begin with, try some of the more basic searches and as your confidence builds, move on and try some of the more advanced searches.
- In most cases, you will be searching for material on a given subject. Begin your search with a keyword search, rather than a subject search. A keyword search will search every part of a record for your search terms, whereas a subject search will only search the subject field(s) of the record. If you do not know the exact wording of the subject being used you may not retrieve any results. Some databases allow you to browse the subject index to find out what terms are used.
- When the database returns the results of your search, you should:
- look at the number of results retrieved. If there are too many, revise your search by adding terms. If too few, broaden your search by removing terms. More information on this can be found in the Tips For Searching guide.
- Examine each record to determine if the item is on your topic.
- If you find an item that matches what you are looking for, note the subject headings that have been used to describe it, because you can use those headings to do a subject search for items that deal with the same subject.
If you want to find a particular book or article or materials written by a particular author, use the author or title search fields. When doing a title search, you can usually leave off any leading articles in a title (such as A, AN, or THE). For example, to search for Shakespeare's play The Tempest, you would just enter Tempest in the search box. To do an author search, you usually will enter your search terms in this order: lastname, firstname. For example, to find books by William Shakespeare enter Shakespeare, William in the search box on the author search screen.
As you begin to gather your information and read through it, take note of the bibliographies and references cited in your research material. They will often lead you to other research that has been done on your topic.
Keep an eye out for items that are cited multiple times in different publications. This is an indication that the work is considered important to the field.