Part 3. Develop your Search Strategy

Key Takeaway

Research is a circular process that involves asking questions whose answers will lead to revised questions or new lines of inquiry.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Develop a search strategy in order to use research tools more efficiently
  • Implement key features of library search tools to improve search results

Navigation: How to move around this tutorial

This module should take roughly 15 minutes to complete.

Use the arrows at the bottom of each page to move forward and backward through the modules. Or, use the Contents menu in the top left hand corner to go to a particular section.



You’ve developed a research question and identified main concepts to use as keywords. You have an idea of what kinds of sources you need and what is required by your assignment. Now it’s time to consider how you will build a search strategy that will allow you to use the library’s resources most efficiently.

It is useful to understand that the research process is iterative, which means the results of initial searches will help shape and improve your subsequent searches. As we learned in the video in Part 1, it is seldom a linear process that starts and ends with a single question.

You will likely perform a sequence of searches several times and use various tools, including Google and library resources, before getting a set of results that will meet your needs.


A Good Search Strategy Should Consist of the Following:

  1. Keyword searching
  2. Examining the results of initial searches and adjusting keywords if necessary
  3. Using filters or limits
  4. Citation tracking
Question mark
Figure 3.1 Expert searching. Image by quimono.


Image: “Question mark important sign” by quimono.


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Doing Research Copyright © 2020 by Celia Brinkerhoff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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