Topic 7 Planning a search
Early on in her project, Mary (studying on a Post-Graduate Science course) came up with a series of questions which had helped her to identify exactly what it was about GM food she was looking for. One of the questions she had ended up with was: ‘Is there research evidence on any health effects of eating GM foods?’
But how was she going to get from knowing what she was looking for, to getting the information itself? She couldn't go into a bookshop, or a library armed just with her question, and expect to find a book with all the answers in. What she needed to do was to break her question down, to pinpoint the range of ideas it included. This would then enable her to look for specific material. She needed to translate the questions into a ‘search strategy’.
Translating your question into a search strategy or statement is an important first step in tracking down the information you need. Developing a search strategy starts by thinking about the kinds of words related to your topic that you might expect to find in books or in newspaper articles. Carefully considered keywords and/or a good search statement can be applied to whichever sources you might decide to use. They will be equally effective with such resources as specific computer databases, library catalogues or online journals etc.