Search strategies

Simple searches - "quick and dirty"

Sometimes, if your subject is straightforward and you only need a few relevant documents, you can restrict your efforts to typing in a single search term or phrase, for example "heat shock proteins" or "viagra" into the search box.
Such "quick and dirty" searches can also be useful to give you a rough idea of the contents of the database, or to help you identify search terms such as synonyms, technical terms or jargon.

Complicated searches - building a search strategy

In most cases, you will have to use more advanced methods, involving combinations of several search terms. For this you will have to define a search strategy, a plan of action that helps you find the information you need. This requires you to think about your subject, work out what information you need, and how you're going to find it.

The first step is to split your subject into main themes and identify keywords.

Example: Which factors are influencing the vase life of roses?

The main themes of any research topic can often be found in the assignment question, as seen in the example above. These ‘keywords’ can then be used to search for relevant references in databases.

Keywords and phrases provide initial search terms for finding information in databases. After identifying main keyword/phrases you have to think of additional subject headings to ensure you find all the information about your topic.

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