There is no perfect search strategy and every researcher will adapt processes that will work for him/her. Even so, most strategies will encompass the ABCs:
- A. Analyze and plan the search question and break it into key concepts/terms.
- B. Brainstorm and expand these key terms for other relevant subjects/terms.
- C. Combine key terms into a refined search string using Boolean logic.
A. Analyze the search question...
'How do I find materials on gender issues in secondary science education?'
... key terms like gender, science and secondary education can be easily identified and expanded while more analysis is needed on the fuzzy concept of 'issues'.
B. Brainstorm the key concepts, gender and science and expand as...
- gender, sex role, sex stereotypes, boys, girls, males, females
- science, biology, chemistry, physics
... while 'issues' may be broken down as ...
- achievement, attainment, failure
C. Combine search terms using Boolean logic-- AND, OR or NOT --to combine keywords. AND limits searches and OR widens searches.
If you want to include many variations of gender, you will get many more results by using OR as ...
- gender OR sex role OR sex stereotypes OR boys OR girls OR males OR females
If you have too many results, use AND to limit your search for a final search string like...
- biology AND girls AND underachievement AND secondary education
When you have refined your search, consider the who, what where, how when and why:
- Who is writing? (authenticity, peer-reviewed authors...)
- Where will you search? (Explore, databases, archives...)
- How will you search? (keywords, Boolean operators, authors ...)
- When is your research is due? (days, weeks, months, years...)
- What are your searching for? (books, journal articles...)