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Lund University

Psychology - a subject guide: Search & Evaluate

A subject guide made for students and staff at the The Department of Psychology at Lund University

Search & Evaluate

Social Sciences Faculty Library

Enhance Search with Basic Boolean Operators

AND – link words by AND to search for all words in the same resource

                                                 

OR – link words by OR to search for one word or another (instead of both/all words)

                                        

                        

NOT – to eliminate results with a certain term

                                                

“Quotations” – add quotations to a group of two or more words to search for the exact phrase (ex. “north America” instead of north America)

To learn more about Boolean Operators click here!

Your need of information during and after your studies

Social Sciences Faculty Library at Lund University

In Swedish, with English subtitles.

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?

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.

Checklist

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)

Reliability: 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?

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

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

Scholarly: Is it a scholarly text or popular science?

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

WHO is communicating the information? (authority)

Author: 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?

Publisher: 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)

Purpose: 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)

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.

Who owns the web domain?

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.