Before starting to search using anyelectronic database, be it the library onlinecatalogue (IPAC), indexes and abstracts or theInternet, it is important to spend some timethinking about your information needs. This isknown as developing a "search strategy" and ifdone systematically it will significantly improveyour chances of finding relevant information.
Developing a SearchStrategy for Finding the Information you Need
Points to consider as you begin your research include these: What do I need to know about this topic? Does it involve researching people, places, events, or a particular time in history? How current must my information be?
Do I need facts and statistics? Do I need a general overview of my subject, ora lot of detail? Do I need to find out both sides of anargument? Is my topic controversial or still beingexplored? Will there be differing viewpoints indifferent sources?
Points to consider in determining your search strategy includethese: Reference sources, such as encyclopedias oralmanacs, are a good starting place for an overview ofyour topic and for gathering facts and statistics. If your topic requires you to get information frombooks, you would want to search the Librarys OnlinePublic Access Catalog (OPAC), to see if the librarysystem has books that you can check out.
Do you need to find current information on yourtopic? If your topic requires a broad overview ofinformation, you may want to search an onlineencyclopedia. These encyclopedias are generally easy touse and can give you a large amount of information in ashort period of time.
Keywords identified the kind of information you need, anddeveloped a search strategy regarding the types ofsources you will use, the next step is to select searchterms or "keywords" from your topic to use toconduct your search. These keywords, whichdescribe the topic you are researching, are theterms you will use when you search in any kind ofelectronic database, as well as on the World WideWeb.
Search operators, such as AND, OR andNOT, are terms that allow you to group yourkeywords together to retrieve a number ofdifferent types of results. Operators are wordsthat may add or subtract a concept to yoursearch.