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Research Skills: Step-By-Step: Search

This guide will help you to develop your research skills and better understand the research process.

Information Sources

Before starting your research, it's important to understand the types of information sources available.

They include:

  • Encyclopedias & Dictionaries
  • Books & E-Books
  • Videos & Images
  • Articles from newspapers, magazines and journals
  • Grey Literature (such as government reports, conference proceedings, research reports etc)
  • Websites

The types of resources you choose for your assignment will be governed by the type of information you require.

To create the most effective and efficient searches for locating information, use the search strategies shown in this guide.

One Perfect Source or Not?

 Source: libncsu. (2014, July 9). One perfect source? [video]. YouTube.

Not finding enough information?

Your topic may be too NARROW or specialised.

Use these suggestions to improve your search results.

GENERALISE - Generalise your topic. If the topic is the health effects of fracking on a specific community, broaden your topic to all communities in an Australian state.


CURRENCYIf your topic is very current, there may not be books or articles available yet. Select an alternative topic that is less recent.


DATABASE CHOICESUse more than one library database in your subject area or consider those in related subject areas which may cover your topic from a different perspective.


SYNONYMSUse a thesaurus to find synonyms for your topic. When doing background reading, note the terminology that is being used.


RELATED TOPICSExplore related issues to your topic.


EXPAND OR REMOVECheck your use of topic limiters/filters such as: location, time period, population, person/group, aspect.


For example:

Narrow Topic:  Does cartoon viewing cause aggression in children under age five?

Broader:  What are the negative effects of TV on children?

Finding too much Information?

Your research topic may be too BROAD.

Consider narrowing it to be more specific.

Use these suggestions to improve your search results.

TIME -  Could you narrow to a specific time period i.e. 20th Century, 1980's


LOCATION - Is it possible to narrow by a geographical location i.e. Australia, urban, regional


POPULATION ASPECTS - Can you narrow with particular aspects of the population i.e. age group, ethnic groups, occupation, gender etc.


For example:

Broad Topic: Global warming

Narrower Topic: How will climate change impact sea levels on coastal Australia?