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Information Technology Guide: Search Tools and Strategy

This Guide has been created to help Information Technology students to find useful academic quality sources via the Library

Building a Search Strategy

You can break your search strategy into smaller steps:

  1. Analyse your task: Every assignment, research or thesis paper has a purpose. Before you start searching make sure you are clear on what you have to do to complete the task. You can do this by:
    • Thinking about the main themes presented in the task
    • Reviewing material in Learnline that is relevant to the task
    • Asking for clarification from the lecturer or tutor if you are unsure of what you need to do
  2. Identifying Keywords: Pick out the main words that describe the information you are trying to find. Identify words that have the same meaning as alternative keywords.  
  3. Choose a search tool: Pick a tool that will help you find the information you need. You may start with a broad search tool like Library Search or Google Scholar then move on to more advanced specific databases that are relevant to your area of research. 

Choosing a Search Tool

When you start to search, pick a search tool that will help you complete your research task. Even when scholarly (high quality academic) material is needed you may like to start with a simple search using a web search engine like Google. This will help you get an overview of the topic and learn how that topic is discussed and what language is used. This can also help you pick out keywords.

The next step is to build on your initial search to find information that is suited to an academic research topic. Here are some examples of common search tools and their uses:

  • Web Search Engines, like Google or DuckDuckGo to find government and industry resources. Remember to ensure they are credible sources. 
  • Google Scholar is a search engine that specializes in searching scholarly literature and academic resources. While Google will return information contained in any website, Google Scholar limits its searching to just academic literature resources, including .edu sites. Resources found through Google Scholar might not be freely accessible.
  • Library Search, this tool searches across resources the library has subscribed to. You will need to login with your student login to access the resources. This search tool will search across the library's hard copy books, eBooks and journal collection. 
  • A-Z Databases, this is a list of databases that allows you to target searchers through specific databases available through the library. See the main page of this guide for a list of relevant databases
  • Subject Guides provide links to databases that are relevant to your field of study and present other relevant tools and resources. 

How to find peer-reviewed articles

In the course of your studies, you will sometimes be required by your lecturer to use scholarly, peer-reviewed resources. This is work that has been written by researchers and academics, and has been through a rigorous selection process prior to publication.

When looking for peer-reviewed journal articles in Library Search or a library database, you can limit your searches to peer-reviewed articles using the refining options available.

If you already have some articles that you want to check, you can use Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory to find out if a journal is peer reviewed. Just type in the journal title (not the article title) and you will be able to see if the journal is peer-reviewed by the little referee jumper symbol next to the title.

Evaluating resources

Searching for your keywords in Google will usually come up with lots and lots of results. But are they suitable to use as an information source (and reference) in academic assignments?

Use these evaluation criteria to assess online resources:

  1. Currency- when was the work published, is id out of date for the topic?
  2. Relevance- is it detailed analysis, what is the readership level
  3. Authority- who are the authors and their credentials- is it peer reviewed?
  4. Accuracy- can you verity the source, are there other sources cited in the bibliography?
  5. Purpose- is there bias in the work, is there are particular perspective?

More information can be found in the Evaluating Information Sources Guide.

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