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Planning your search.

HEAT Stage 2: Finding and managing information.

2.2 Planning your search


Planning your searches will help you to find and assess suitable information for your assignments. Below is an example of a simple model which can be used to search for and assess information:

Planning your search


This model is circular – you are thinking about your topic, identifying keywords, considering which sources to use and evaluating your results, before revising your search strategy and beginning again.


This process is an important part of academic research. It will help you to organise your thoughts and arguments, to record what you have found and to critically analyse the evidence used in your assignments.

How do I start searching?


Start by thinking about what you are being asked to do. Breaking down the title of your assignment and thoroughly reading your project brief will help you to identify keywords and topics for searching.


Once you have decided on your keywords, you must think about which sources you need to search. You may need to search several different types of sources in order to find the broadest possible range of information on your topic.


Keyword Tip:

It is a good idea when searching to look at the language and terms used by academics, professionals and experts to describe or explain ideas and theories within your subject. The terminology used by these experts will also be used in academic journals, books and websites, and therefore make excellent keywords.

Revising your search strategy


You will need to narrow down your search results to find the most relevant information – evaluating your results will help you to filter out irrelevant, false or misleading information.


Revising your search strategy by changing keywords, the type of sources used and the time period searched will ensure that you use the best available evidence for your assignments.


Searching Tip:

Keeping records of the sources and keywords used and the results found will help you to replicate your searches and check for new results.

Where should I search?

  • Many University, College and Local Government websites will feature links to library services and online catalogues, enabling you to check book stock and journal holdings in advance.
  • Online databases feature articles from many different journals. Talk to your Librarian for about using and accessing databases for your subject.
  • Information Gateways gather web sources for study and research on one site. A good example is Intute [site no longer active], a multi-discipline gateway featuring evaluated resources for study and research.
  • Google Scholar features books, abstracts, theses, articles and academic papers from academic publishers, professional societies, universities and other scholarly organisations.


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