Four steps to a better search

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A thorough search gives you overview. What literature is available within the topic?

Here you have four steps to a better search; 1. Good search terms, 2. Relevant bibliography article databases, 3. Use: AND – OR – NOT and 4. Evaluate result and be critical


Step 1: Chose good search terms

Keywords alias subject headings or descriptors, are already in your research question and chosen title.

You can find more keywords in:

– articles, books written by authors that are researching the topic.

– dictionaries, article databases, reports, books, encyclopledia etc

Find synonyms, related concepts, broader /narrower terms and possible abbreviations for your keywords

BIBLIOTEKSRESSOURCER (LINKS)

Some bibliographic article databases have an online thesaurus

Use both English and Latin names for plants & animals


Step 2: Know how to use: OR – AND – NOT

You have the keywords and chosen the article databases and now you have to use the operators: AND, OR and NOT

You have to combine all related keywords (headings, identifiers, etc.) you can find, to get a broad search.

An example on a title: “Overweight among Danish women”

  • Search 1: woman OR women OR female OR females
  • Search 2: Overweight OR obesity
  • Search 3: Danish OR Denmark

And after that combine all three with AND to narrow:

You can also use NOT to exclude keywords
You can also delineate with for example publication year and language, if you have too many sources.

BIBLIOTEKSRESSOURCER (LINKS)

Truncation/wildcards are used to search the root of the word. The truncation sign (wildcard) is often an asterix: *. It replaces often zero to many letters. Sometimes the wildcard can be a question mark (?) or a dollar sign $.


Step 3: Find relevant bibliography article databases

It is fine to include Google, or even better Google Scholar, in your search. However, if you really want to optimize and have detailed control of your search,  you need to use an article database – also called bibliographic databases:

“A bibliographic database is a database of bibliographic records, an organized digital collection of references to published literature, including journal and newspaper articles, conference proceedings, reports, government and legal publications, patents, books, etc.”
A bibliographic database may be general in scope or cover a specific academic discipline”

wikipedia

Copenhagen University Library gives you, as a student, access to many article databases (Open the Subject guides)

Always search in more than one article database. They all have unique sources – and you want them all 🙂

BIBLIOTEKSRESSOURCER (LINKS)

Step 4: Evaluate the search result and be critical

Now when you have found all this sources, articles, books, reports etc – then you need to give them a critical look.

You have to be sure if a source are reliable or unreliable

You ask, is this source objective, relevant, reliable and accurate?

You can use Be critical! – an exercise for the purpose.

Critical Thinking written on notebook page with red pencil on the right

Step 5: Copenhagen University Library, Frederiksberg

You are always welcome to get in touch with your library!

KUB Frederiksberg (Science)
KUB Nord (Natural and Health Sciences)
KUB South Campus (Humanities, Law, and ITU)
 Faculty Library of Social Science
Faculty Library of Theology
The Black Diamond