Search strategy

When looking for information everyone wants to get the best information, as quickly as possible so investing a little time before you dive in can really pay off.

Analyse topic

Take five minutes and a blank piece of paper:

  • Write down your topic – see the example below
  • Write everything you can think of about your topic. Include what you already know as well as what you need to find out
Topic: Discuss the  advantages & disadvantages  of genetically modified crops
disease resistance
canola
potatoes
what other crops?
Monsanto
markets?
Agribusiness
Flavr savr tomatoes
Royal Commission of Inquiry
health risks
environmental impacts
increased cropyields?
politicians views
will superweeds grow?
protesters
how safe?
views of scientists?
what do the Greens say?

Organise ideas

Once you have written down your ideas, it helps to organise them by forming connections between them.

Concept Map

Once you have selected your search terms arrange them in columns. In each column include as many alternative terms that describe each concept.

Concept 1   Concept 2   Concept 3
“genetically modified crop*”    disadvantages   risk
OR   OR   OR
“genetically modified food” AND advantages AND hazards
OR        
“plant genetic engineering”

Try our online tutorial about picking alternative terms

Combine search terms

Use the connecting words AND, OR to broaden or narrow your searches. Boolean operators will work in the Library Catalogue, most databases and many Web search engines.

 

Narrow your search by using AND:

venn diagram describing boolean logic
dairy AND exports
When you put AND between your search words, you are asking the database to show only those records that containBOTH words.

Broaden your search by using OR:

venn diagram describing boolean logic
dairy OR milk
When you put OR between your search words, you are asking the database to show records that have any ONE of your search words in them. You are expanding your search to include other words similar to your idea.

Use AND and OR in the same search:

venn diagram describing boolean logic
(dairy OR milk) AND exports
You can also use AND and OR in the same search, but you must put brackets around the OR part of the search.

 

Your concept map will now look like this:

Concept 1   Concept 2   Concept 3
“genetically modified crop*”    disadvantages   risk
OR   OR   OR
“genetically modified food” AND advantages AND hazards
OR        
“plant genetic engineering”        

Identify tools

Library catalogue and databases

 

Search tool Description Accessibility
LibrarySearch One-step searching across a range of the Library’s resources, including the library catalogue, most library databases and digital collections From home, campus computer labs or the Library
Online databases Many have the full text of articles & cover special subject areas. Others have just references to articles. 1) Some from home, campus computer labs or the Library
2) Others from the Library only (e.g. MapToaster, a map database)

Choosing a database

Your choice of databases depends on the:

  • subject coverage of the database
  • type of records the database contains (e.g. full text of articles or references to articles with summaries only)
  • type of information wanted (e.g. academic or popular)
  • geographic coverage – New Zealand or international

The databases are arranged alphabetically and by subject. If you are not familiar with the databases in your field of research try the subject pages first.