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Self-study material for information searches: Planning

Quick search

The purpose of quick search is to find a direct answer to a question or just a few documents related to the topic. A quick search is appropriate when trying to find:

  • general information on a subject (EU Agenda 2000, how to teach to play the piano)
  • single facts (contact information, a section of a law, statistical information, the name of a composer, to check an online catalogue if a specific title is available)
  • references or key documents, which can be further used to refine the search.

Create mind maps to find search terms and how they relate to each other.



Choosing search terms

Before you start searching for information, take time to consider what the concepts related to the topic are: eg. mobile devices

  • broader (computers, information technology)
  • narrower (tablets, smart phones)
  • related concepts (wireless devices)

For search terms, you can use the terminology found in

  • articles
  • textbooks
  • reference books and dictionaries

Specifying topic and selecting approach

A successful information search is based on good planning. You can choose between two different approaches:

  • quick search suitable for a restricted need for information
  • systematic information retrieval for more advanced needs.

Systematic search

In more extensive research, for example writing a thesis, quick search is only partly suitable. When you have chosen the research topic, make a systematic review of the previous publications related to the topic, both printed and electronic, and of on-going research projects. 

This requires persistent work. You need an extensive knowledge of information searching techniques, methods and possibilities:

  • library catalogues and services
  • databases related to the field
  • the basics of how to make a search plan and other search strategies in addition to quick search
  • how to use thesauruses and sometimes even classification systems
  • how to use different search strategies to refine the search
  • how to use information network services (discussion groups, mailing lists and e-mail) in communication
  • new electronic resources and collections (virtual libraries)
  • the advanced qualities and subject directories of search engines