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Lund University

Human Geography, Human Ecology, Development Studies, and Sustainability Studies

The Information Search Process

It's possible to find a large amount of information, but seldom "everything". To cover your subject of interest best, it is therefore important that you reflect and plan your information searching to gain as much relevant information as possible.

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?

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:

Search techniques


Truncation means that you replace the end of a word with a sign, usually the * sign, alllowing you to search everything starting with a certain stemming.


If you write socio* you get sociology, sociological, sociopath etc.

Phrase search

You use phrase search when you want specific words to appear in a specific order. Most databases mark phrases with quotation marks "" before and after the phrase.


"climate change" gives hits for this phrase, but not for the words in other contexts like changes in the climate generally.

"Karl Marx" gives hits for this specific name in this specific order, but not for the Marx brothers or other persons named Karl.

Field search

Databases are constructed by entering data in different fields. There are author, title, year and abstract fields (and many more). You can use these fields for limiting your search.


When searching for Michel Foucault you can choose the author field for finding articles by Foucault himself, the abstract field for finding articles mentioning him or the title field for finding articles where he is a prominent figure.

Structured searches

Search Strategy & Information Monitoring

How to make the nagivation of the information landscape easier

  • A search strategy, do I need that?
    Searching information can be time consuming. A thought through search strategy can save you a lot of time and improve the quality of the material you get. Your searches will be more efficient and there are tips and tricks that are good to know.
  • What kind of Information Resources do I need?
    There are many different kinds of resources out there. How do you know which one is the most suitable for your assignment or thesis? An introduction to the most common ones is provided.
  • What is Information Monitoring?
    How can I get the new most up to date information in my field? If you sign up for a free monitoring service you can easily get hold of the latest reseach and publications. They can be sent to your email if you register.


No matter where you may have retrieved information, it is important to have a critical approach to your sources.

To evaluate the reliability, your own experience and knowledge as well as the source's reputation plays an important role. Does the source have fact checkers or editors?

By whom?

Author: Is the author well known in their field of research? Does the author have academic legitimacy? Have they been published before? Is there any way to contact the author?

Publisher:  Who is responsible for the information - a company, an agency, an organization or an individual? Is there any contact information? Serious publishers often clearly express who they are and what they do. How reputable is the publisher?

For whom?

Target audience: Who is the intended audience (scholars, school children, general public, etc.)?

Relevance: How relevant and/or useful is the material for your needs? Which topics are covered, and to what depth?


Purpose: What is the purpose of the material – to inform, present research, disseminate views, entertain, to sway the opinion of the audience? Is the information presented with a minimum of bias?


Up-to-date: When was the text written? Is the material enough for you topically? Is the publication or web page dated? Updated? If the date is included it may have various meanings: date first created, date placed on the web or date last revised.


Scholarly: Is it a scholarly text or popular science? Does it include an abstract, theory, method and analysis sections?

References: Which other sources has been cited in the work/material?

Who owns the web domain?

To know how owns a web domain might be of great use when you evaluate it's reliability. Below you will find a few different pages where you can find out just that.

Evaluating Sources - try the CRAAP-test!

This tutorial was created by Western Libraries