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Lund University

Political Science & Peace and Conflict Studies Subject Guide: Search Strategy

Search Strategy

How to search smart

Social Sciences Faculty Library, Lund University

Where to search

Social Sciences Faculty Library, Lund University

Inför uppsatsen

Samhällsvetenskapliga fakultetens bibliotek vid Lunds universitet

Using a Database Thesaurus

Using a thesaurus/controlled vocabulary/subject terms can be of great help when you want to conduct subject searches. A thesaurus presents words/search terms grouped together according to the similarity of meaning, for instance containing synonyms and sometimes also antonyms. In a database, it can guide you to the controlled vocabulary of subject headings and you will know which synonym to use when searching, and also get suggestions for other search words that are more narrow or more general.

Using a Database Subject Terms (EBSCO)

The example is a tutorial from EBSCO. Since it uses an EBSCOhost database, the tutorial is also applicable to the database Political Science Complete (PSC) and LUBsearch.

 

 

The Information Search Process

The information search process

 

 

Before you start searching, take the time to reflect about the following: 

  • What am I going to use the information for? 
  • What kind of sources will I be needing?
  • In which search facilities can I find suitable material?
  • How do I search for that material? 
  • Which limitations should I apply?

The first step in the information search process is always the question or issue you want to address: What makes a research question good? Which criteria are applicable? Is it possible to answer?

Encyclopaedias and subject thesauri can be a good start to get suggestions for keywords and main concepts. Some databases has indexes or so called thesauri to  help you find subject terms suitable for that database. Also remember to figure out  synonyms and variations for the search words. 

Before you start searching, think through what kind of information you are looking for. Which sources and literature may be useful? At the starting point of the material gathering process, dissertations, academic papers/essays and reference works are good staring points to learn about and get familiar with a new subject area. Reference works, that is subject specific encyclopaedias and handbooks, are very useful to get an overview of a research field. You will find comprehensive articles about the research within an issue and provide references for further reading.

To optimize your searches it is appropriate to get familiar with the most common search techniques. . Most search services have a "help session" or an on-line tutorial where it is explained how to which search techniques should be used and how to use them. Common are boolean search, phrase search  and usage of truncation and wild cards.

The search process is seldom straight or simple, you might have to redefine your search terms as you go. Remember to save your searches, search words and results.

Combine search terms - Boolean logic

It´s easy and logic to combine search terms using the words AND, OR and NOT, also called boolean logic or boolean operators.

In databases and search engines you can often combine these by choice, in drop-down menues, but sometimes they can be pre-defined.

Boolean logic works like this: