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Search Strategies

E. S. Farley Library • 570-408-4250 (T) • 570-408-7823 (F) • contact form

A search strategy can be defined as...
a systematic, organized, manner of locating, retrieving, and evaluating library resources.

What this means is that you have a plan to conduct your research before you begin searching for your topic.

Gathering a variety of resources from various formats together is certainly one step involved in a research strategy. Finding the important key words for your topic could be considered another step. However, these are only examples of steps in a series of steps that could be performed in designing an effective search strategy.

Steps In a Search Strategy...
Creating A Search Statement.
This step involves stating your topic in one sentence. Sometimes, it is helpful to put your statement into a question.

Selecting Key Words.
This step involves picking out the most central, important words from your created search statement.

Modifying Search Statement.
This step involves adding the Boolean Operators "AND" or "NOT" to narrow your search. It may also involve using the Boolean Operator "OR" to think of synonyms or similar words to broaden your search statement. You can now revise your original search statement to create a new one.

Selecting Resources.
This step involves finding out the best resources that will more than adequately cover your topic.

Conducting Your Search.
This step involves plugging your crafted search statement into an online database to search for books, articles, or other resources. Browsing the reference area for books related to your topic can prove to be helpful. Finding current bibliographies in books and articles can also be useful to finding resources on your topic.

Modifying Your Search AGAIN.
This step involves using limiters or expanders. Narrow the topic, if too many documents are retrieved. Broaden the topic, if too few documents are retrieved. Limit or narrow a topic by selecting scholarly, peer-reviewed articles, types of resources, the date of publication, and the use of the Boolean Operators "AND" or "NOT". To expand or broaden a topic, use similar or related words with the Boolean Operator "OR". There may be times when modifying a topic or changing it completely may be necessary. This is a part of the research process.

Evaluating Resources Critically.
This step involves looking beyond the first ten entries that are found or maybe using the library's interlibrary loan services, if the library does not own the resource. Looking at only full-text documents does not necessarily retrieve resources that are the most scholarly or reliable. If an assignment requires scholarly books, articles, and Web sites, the evaluative components for each of these formats overlap but may have some differences.

To find scholarly resources, use the following criterion:
  • Authority.
  • Accuracy.
  • Bias.
  • Coverage.
  • Currency.

    This is especially true when you have chosen to use an Internet search engine to conduct your research.  It is more likely to be a scholarly Web site if it contains footnotes and a bibliography.

    Citing Your Resources.
    This step involves giving credit to an author when his or her work is being used in your assignment. When citing information taken from an online database, cite it as coming from an online database and not just from a journal.

    Do you now feel better about the research process?
    Test your mastery by taking this multiple-choice quiz.
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