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Key skills: making a difference
Key skills: making a difference

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6.5.2 Use a variety of search strategies and tools effectively

How you search for information will depend on the subject area as well as the libraries, databases and other sources available to you. Each subject area will have its own way of talking about relevant information and the relationships between different groupings of knowledge within the discipline. The indexing of information sources associated with the subject area is likely to stress those areas which are considered central to the subject area, but may ignore other areas which are seen as fringe or unorthodox.

Understanding the language of the subject area, therefore, is important in making informed choices about key words and search terms that are likely to be successful. Similarly, understanding the language and structure of your chosen information-retrieval system (such as library catalogue, commercial or academic database, citation index, Internet search engine, or book index) will make your searches more effective. Take time to explore the use of Boolean operators (that is logical AND, OR, NOT operators for combining search terms), truncation and proximity formats in search engines to expand or narrow your search. Different search tools have different user interfaces, so be prepared to come across different command words, rules and parameters for searching, and ask for specialist help if you need it.

Time out

Outline your search strategy, noting the key words or search terms you are going to use.