Before you start searching, spend some time defining your research topic. Ask yourself, what is it that you want to find out? What search terms or keywords will find this information?
Use whatever technique works best for you - e.g. brainstorming, words lists or mind maps etc. can help you think around your topic and identify all possible search concepts and terms.
Once you have identified your keywords and synonyms, it is really useful to organise them by concept. This will enable you to combine your keywords and carry out complex searches in one go (see next tab).
You may find it useful to use a table or circle. For example:
“How do questions of identity raise issues of power relations in the modern world?"
The keywords have been organised by concept. As you can see, the keywords have been picked from the essay title itself but you can expand on them.
The three most commonly used operators are AND, OR, NOT. These are known as Boolean operators. They can be used to broaden or narrow a search and to exclude unwanted concepts.
These techniques will improve the relevancy of your results by only returning results that match your instructions.
If we use the original essay example, a typical search may look like this:
“How do questions of identity raise issues of power relations in the modern world?”.
The ability to evaluate the academic quality of the information you find is a core aspect of scholarly research.
This is particularly important when searching online and using tools like Google. While textbooks and academic journals will likely have gone through a rigorous review and editing process, there are no such guarantees for much of the information you can find online.
The CRAAP test provides simple criteria for judging the academic quality of information. By asking some questions of the sources you encounter, you can successfully boost the quality of information you use in your work.
The five main CRAAP test criteria are:
In an age of misinformation and fake-news, the ability to evaluate the quality of the information we find has never been more important.
Currency: the timeliness of the information
Relevancy: the importance of the information for your needs
Accuracy: the reliability and correctness of the content
Authority: the source of the information
Purpose: the reason the information exists