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ELISE | Informing your studies tutorial: Search health check


Search health check - troubleshoot your search

Start with a simple search

  • gauge what information is available on the topic. Then you can refine your terms

Search your key concepts

  • only search for the key concepts you have identified, not your whole assessment question
  • avoid general terms like impact, characteristics or influence as they may not appear in the articles you need
  • avoid using too many terms

Choose appropriate terms

  • ensure your terms are not too broad or narrow
  • e.g. for information on melting ice caps, a broad search on climate change will return many irrelevant results

Check your spelling

  • databases often search exactly what you type in, including spelling mistakes
  • search both British and American English variations, e.g. behaviour and behavior

Try alternative terms

  • check titles, abstracts and subject terms of relevant articles for alternative search terms
  • look at the references of these articles as well as the citations to find more papers

Use the right databases

Search for the right resource type

  • be aware of the types of resources you are retrieving 
  • you can often refine your search to articles, ebooks, dissertations etc.