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Literature searching

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Planning your search strategy

Before you start searching, you will need to think carefully about your topic and your information needs.

A search strategy helps you to:

  • Decide how much information you need
  • Identify relevant sources of information
  • Focus on your topic and exclude irrelevant information
  • Modify your search as you go along
  • Revise and update your information later on.

How much information do you need?

Be clear about what you hope to achieve from your search. Are you planning a 5 minute oral presentation, a short essay, or a dissertation? When you have established the extent of the task, you will be better able to plan your search for information.

What type of information do you need?

Sometimes a question can be answered with a 'straightforward' fact. Other questions and answers are more complex and you will need to consult different types of information sources. The information you need, and therefore the types of resources you will consult, depends on the question.