Have you ever done a search for information that’s ended in a frustratingly useless circle of Google queries? We all have – it’s amazing how many stories I hear from people who just want to find the answer to their (simple) question, but can’t because the tools aren’t working for them. Usually this is because they don’t have a search strategy – a simple plan to help find, evaluate, use, and create information and knowledge.
I developed The SEARCHERS Guide as a way of helping people understand the research process and make information searches more efficient and effective.
The Guide can be used by anyone – from high-level academic research to cheating in trivia quizzes. It’s a strategy that can be as simple or complex as needed, and it’s now available as a book!
Starting words: Develop a research question (if needed) and establish the key words, action words, restricting words, and framing words.
Equivalents: Look for the key words spelled or written slightly differently (EG. litre vs liter).
Alternatives: Find synonyms for the key words.
Resources: Decide what type of material to use, and where to get it.
Command: Investigate different options for the search (EG. Boolean operators, truncation searching, phrase searching)
Hit search: Double check everything so far then go for it.
Edit: Use filters and limiters in the database to narrow or broaden the search results.
Review: Evaluate results.
Start again: Recognise that research is a cyclical process, and be prepared for dead ends, tangents, and new discoveries.