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Life Sciences Subject Guide

An Academic Librarian guide for students

Break your topic down

Beginning with your research question, consider how you can break this down into meaningful search words or keywords and phrases. Try to pull out keywords from the question or brief that are relevant to your search 

Example:  The impact of social media on the spread of fake news

Possible Keywords for searching: social media, social networks, fake news, misinformation, filter bubbles, news feeds

Tip- Make a note of any keywords so you can keep track of what you have searched

Think about related areas

This step requires you to think outside the box and consider other aspects that are relevant to the topic or research question. Consider:

  • What you already know about the topic;

  • What can you find out about the topic through an initial search

Tip- Do some background reading around the topic e.g. use introductory books, the web, newspapers

Consider alternatives

The next step is to think of any variations of the search words or any other relevant keywords, including:

  • Synonyms – social media, social networks, social platforms
  • Spelling – behaviour/behavior
  • Abbreviations – UX (user experience), SMP (social media platforms)
  • Endings - network* network/networks/networking

Create meaningful search strategies

The next stage is to bring some of the keywords together to create meaningful search strategies. If you are trying to narrow your search down then link keywords with ‘AND’.

Example: 

social media  AND fake news  AND UK.

To broaden your searches you can use ‘OR’ e.g.  social media OR social networks

Tips- Pick up on any keywords or descriptors as you search and add these to your plan.

Next steps

The next step is to test out some of your keywords and search strategies online to locate information.

You may need to revisit your search plan once you have carried out an initial search or you can add to your list of keywords as you find useful information. 

Interactive Version