About information retrieval

Define your search question

The first step of an information search is to define what you wish to search for. Remember that an information search is essentially a word match search. You will enter words in the database of your choice and the database will return items containing these words to you. How well your search works, how good the result is, depends on your ability to choose the right words for your search. It thus makes sense to use only words that actually have a specific meaning for your topic, keywords.

With this in mind it makes more sense to try and use a variety of words in your search. Consider the possibility that not everyone working in your research field use the exact same words to describe what they are doing.

Search technique

There are several different tools and techniques that you can use to specify and get control over your search. The most common are:

  • Phrase searching: Phrase searching is when you search a number of words as an exact phrase, usually by framing your text with ” ”.
  • Truncation: The word truncation come from truncate (= cut off). In a search perspective this means that you write the beginning of a word and then add a truncation symbol (usually * but is may be some other symbol in a few databases) to search for all possible endings of that word at the same time. Ex: Manag* searches for managing, manager, management etc. in the same search.
  • Boolean operators: The Boolean operators are AND, OR and NOT (sometimes AND NOT). Use the operators to control how your search terms are combined in your search.