Social Sciences Faculty Library
Social Sciences Faculty Library at Lund University
In Swedish, with English subtitles.
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:
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 search techniques 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.
No matter where you may have retrieved information from, it is important to have a critical approach towards your sources. Remember that information found on the Internet can be published by basically anyone, so you might have to pay extra attention to the critical evaluation of those sources.
To evaluate your sources, take into consideration the following questions:
WHAT does the material contain? (accuracy & coverage)
: To which extent is the information credible and accurate? 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?
: How relevant and/or useful is the material for your needs? Which topics are covered, and to what depth?
: Which other sources has been cited in the work/material?
: Is it a scholarly text or popular science?
: Who is the intended audience (scholars, school children, general public, et cetera)?
WHO is communicating the information? (authority)
: Is the author well known in their field of research? Does the author have academic legitimacy? Has the author been published before? Is there any way to contact the author? In short - what are the author's qualifications for writing on the subject?
: Who is responsible for the information - a company, an agency, an organization or an individual? Any contact information? Serious publishers often clearly express who they are and what they do. How reputable is the publisher?
WHY was the material published? (objectivity)
: What is the purpose of material or document? Inform, present research, disseminate views, entertain, sway the opinion of the audience...? Is the information presented with a minimum of bias?
WHEN was the material produced or written? (currency)
: 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.
To know who 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.