Using information sources in a systematic and structured manner will save you a good deal of time. Developing a search strategy is vital as it provides you with an overall structure for your search and provides a record of your search history. This is an extremely useful record to have as you find yourself needing to refine or change the focus of your searching as your research develops. It can also improve the relevancy of results obtained as you have thought about keywords and synonyms and how these relate to each other.
Start by expressing your information need in words. Give your topic a working title and write an abstract. This will assist you in thinking about what you need and determining terms to be used later. You may need to consult dictionaries or encyclopedia to clarify the topic.
From the title and abstract of your topic it is possible to identify various concepts and keywords. A concept map / mind map is a useful way to plot ideas.
Title: Attitudes and levels of knowledge of Hepatitis B in Aboriginal women
At this stage you need to identify synonyms for the keywords and concepts you have previously developed. You should choose words that uniquely describe the topic, and you should also list words and concepts you do not want included. You may also need to think about the discipline area and database(s) you will be searching, as there may be a subject specific or database-specific thesaurus that will help you further identify keywords. One way of listing keywords and alternate terms is in a table.
Title: The impact of humans on the Great Barrier Reef
Description: Identify examples of activities by humans and discuss the effect on the reef.
|impact||humans||Great Barrier Reef||activities|
|climate change||tourists||water temperature||tourism|
The sources you select will be determined by the requirements of the breath the literature review covers. No matter how carefully you have thought out your keywords you will only retrieve relevant material if you are using an appropriate source. CQUniversity Library has a range of LibGuides and list of Databases by subject to help identify appropriate sources. It is also important that you ascertain the scope (content, years covered) of each source and learn the features (eg. is truncation used? is boolean logic supported? etc). The help screens on each information source and the advanced searching tips will allow for more accurate searching.
As sources are retrieved, look at each one closely. Read the abstract, introduction and conclusion to determine whether the work is relevant to your topic. The steps below will guide you in assessing the scope, integrity and standing of the relevant sources.
As sources are selected to be used in your literature review, use the steps below as a guide to critically analyse the content.
Keep reviewing your search strategy. Too few, too many or irrelevant results means that you need to consider breaking your search into smaller batches; using narrower or broader search terms; or combining your search terms in a different way. Be comphrehensive and look for different types of sources.
It may be helpful to keep a list of keywords, search strategies and techniques along the way. Also keep a list of those that didn’t work. By adding a date to all your searching activity you will be prompted when searches need updating.