Study tip: How to search and select information for your research assignment

Restrict, define and select search terms
You’ve come up with an interesting subject for your paper, essay or thesis, but how do you find good scientific articles on this subject? And how do you then determine whether they are relevant? You can go through several steps to do this: contain, define and select search terms.

Step 1: Containment: determine which aspect of the subject you want to focus on
When you orientate yourself on a subject for an assignment or thesis, you probably do a broad literature search. On the basis of what you have found, you decide which aspects of the subject you want to focus on and which question goes with it.

Step 2: Defining search terms
Put your specific, defined subject on paper. Are all terms clear? Then think of synonyms for all terms and combine them in your searches. The following video can help you with this.

Step 3: Selection based on relevance
Sometimes articles are indirectly related to your subject, but they are not relevant enough for the specific aspect that is central to your research. So don’t read all the articles thoroughly right away, but first make a pre-selection: read the title and the abstract. Which question does the article answer? Determine to what extent this is useful in the light of your own research question. If you decide to read the article or part of it, start by studying the first paragraphs of the discussion, because they summarise the core and most important findings.

Note: Be sure to check out Abstract Tube, their mission is to create a media-rich academic and research database.