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Planning your search

A guide to the steps involved in planning an effective search for information.

Defining search terms

Before you start searching for information to inform your research, think carefully about your research question, establish the key concepts and plan your search terms.

First, look at the title of your topic and try to identify the main keywords and concepts.

For example, if your search topic is: Wind turbines and their use in industry.

The main concepts here would be wind turbines and industry.

To carry out a thorough, effective search, try to come up with any synonyms, alternative or similar ways of referring to the keywords and concepts..

Some synonyms for wind turbines could be wind power, wind energy, or wind farms

Are there any relevant acronyms or abbreviations?

For example, the United Kingdom has the acronym UK.
Electronic cigarettes can be abbreviated to e-cigarettes.

Can any of the keywords be made plural?

For example, child and children.

Are there any narrower (more specific) or wider (more general) terms to consider?

For example, boy or girl are narrower terms than child
Bitcoin is a narrower term than cryptocurrency.


Some words are spelt differently in American and UK English. There may also be some variations in terminology used in different cultures or countries.

For example, centre (UK) and center (US)
For example, physiotherapy (UK) and physical therapy (US)

Spending some time coming up with these alternative search terms will make your search more effective and improve your set of results.

Using your search terms