Refining your search strategy

You can find lots of library literature on search and retrieval these days, but there is one component of the research process that is often overlooked, even among librarians. The step I am referring to is: refining your search strategy. Once you perform your initial search, spend some time reviewing the results looking for ways to improve the precision of your search. Sometimes this means adding limits to your search (e.g. date, format, audience, etc.), other times it will mean expanding the scope of your search by using broader terms. One way to increase the precision of your searches is to use the same subject headings (also known as a controlled vocabulary) that the database uses to index materials. Do a search on your topic and click the title of any relevant item to open the full database record. This will reveal all of the subject headings used to index the item. These are the terms and phrases you should be using when searching for your topic in that particular database. Keep in mind that the subject headings used in one database will be different from the subject headings in other databases, so adjust your strategy accordingly!



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