Searching techniques

When you are given an assignment you will need to read what has already been written on the topic to help you form your own arguments, ideas and theories. Whether you are searching DISCOVER, another database, or the internet, you can follow these steps for effective searching:

1. Define your topic. Before you begin searching, think about your assignment and define some of its key terms - an assignment on 'postmodernism and sport', for example, will require you to have a good understanding of what 'postmodernism' means. You might want to consider using a dictionary or other reference work (either print or electronic) to help you understand your terms.

2. Identify keywords. Again, before you start searching, make a list of keywords for your assignment. Try to think beyond the actual words given in the assignment title, and identify synonyms and related terms (e.g. power and strength might be used interchangeably, so you should try searching under both). You might find it helpful to take a piece of paper, write your topic in the middle, and then brainstorm all of the words and phrases that you can think of around the topic; this can help you to form searches and ensure that you catch everything.

3. Select the most relevant sources of information. Are you looking for full-text journal articles only? If so, search DISCOVER with the "full-text" limiter selected. If you are looking to do more comprehensive research, you should have a look at the other databases too. Keep in mind that many topics in Sport are interdisciplinary, so you may wish to look at databases in other subject areas too.

4. Create search statements from your keywords. There are any number of techniques you can use to make your searches relevant and focused. You could try some of the following:

  • By combining your keywords together using the linking term and to make search statements you should be able to retrieve fewer results that are more relevant - for example massage and technique and injury
  • If you are looking for a phrase then place it in speech marks; for example "goal setting"

5. Search and evaluate the results - Use your keywords to search your selected database(s). You may find that you will have to try different terms (or combinations of terms) to get the best results. Read the abstract of an article (if it is available) in order to decide which articles are most relevant for your assignment.

Remember - searching for information is a process. Don't get frustrated if you don't find things immediately - try different keywords or a different database if you don't find the information you are looking for in the first instance. If you are finding very little information, be flexible and broaden your search.

If you need any more help with searching, come into the Library and ask, or get in touch with Bill Mortimer, Sport Science librarian.


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