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Creating a Search Strategy Search Strategy: Step 1 Having identified what information you need, you then need to devise an appropriate search strategy for locating that information. Start with the following questions:

1. Is it a quick answer or does it require more depth? 2. Do you need up-to-date or historical information? 3. Do you need primary or secondary information? Primary sources are original materials, often first-hand accounts of research, whereas secondary sources describe primary sources and represent the thinking of someone else). 4. Do you only want English language material? 5. What is the date range for publication of material? 6. Do you only want research carried out in the UK or even just England? 7. Do you need to find specific types of material e.g. statistics, news, reports etc. (c)Richardson, L., & McBryde-Wilding, H. (2009). Information skills for education students. Exeter: Learning Matters.

Search Strategy: Step 2 The next important step is to identify key concepts and key search terms for your search strategy that will help ensure that you find the key resources for your research. You can then apply these key concepts and terms to any searchable information resource, to ensure that you are finding all the relevant sources of information on your topic. They will be particularly helpful when searching large bibliographic databases or resources like the Web.

1. Think about your project topic as a question or series of questions 2. Write down one of these questions and underline the key words or phrase(s) e.g. What is the potential tension between policies for greater ‘effectiveness’ and policies for greater ‘inclusiveness’ in schools in the UK? 3. Create a list of synonyms (alternative terms) for each word that you have underlined, for example: Tension: conflict – clash – discord Policies: strategies – procedures – initiatives Effectiveness: success – efficiency – value Inclusiveness: special needs education – SEN – children with learning disabilities

Schools: primary – secondary – special schools UK: United Kingdom – Britain – England – Scotland – Wales – Northern Ireland

TIP: Use an online thesaurus such as or or the thesaurus on Word to come up with a range of synonyms. Alternatively use the dictionaries in the library or online through the library's electronic gateway.

At this stage it is also important to think about specific terminology. In Education, for example, terminology varies by country e.g. secondary school (UK) or high school (US). There are also differences in spelling to consider e.g. behaviour (UK) or behavior (US).

Search Strategy: Step 3 Consider using truncation or wildcard symbols to increase the number of matching terms when using the search function of an electronic information resource: • The truncation symbol (often * or $) to search for variant endings of a word stem: e.g. inclusi* matches inclusion, inclusivity, inclusiveness etc. • The wildcard symbol (often ?) to replace any single letter: e.g. organi?ation finds organisation or organization.

Search Strategy: Step 4 Combine your search terms using OR or AND whereby: OR finds references which contain either term, e.g. policy or initiative (This expands the search) AND finds references which contain both terms, e.g. strategy and policy (This narrows the search)

Second Language Acquisition



Example Search Strategy What is the potential tension between policies for greater 'effectiveness' and policies for greater 'inclusiveness' in schools in the UK? polic* OR strateg* OR initiativ* AND effective* OR success* AND inclusi* OR SEN OR "special educational needs"

TIP: Note that you can search for particular phrases by putting “ � around the phrase. It is useful to devise a search strategy before you launch into searching the library catalogue or databases and you will find that it continues to develop throughout your research. Keep a note of new keywords and synonyms as you go along...

Tips for Effective Searching in Education  

This brief guide will talk you through the process of creating a search strategy for researching particular topics in Education.