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Journalism & Media Studies

Links and handouts used in class

Constructing a search strategy

Simple strategy for finding information

Here is a summary of what we practiced during the class session.

Step 1: Construct a search strategy.

  • State your question as a sentence.
  • Identify key concepts that must be present in the information source; use the connector and.
  • Consider related terms that might be used for a key concept; use the connector or.
  • Use truncation symbol for word variations; use an * (asterisk) or most databases; Lexis/Nexis uses ! (exclamation mark).
  • Use “ “ (double quotation) for phrases.   Don’t overuse phrase searching.  Consider proximity connectors for phrase variation: n# or w#.

Step 2: Determine the type of information your need.

Use the Library Catalog (except for Web/Internet)

  • Books
    • Historical, scholarly, research, summary and in-depth
  • Encyclopedias & Dictionaries
    • Background/overview, key ideas/concepts, definitions
  • Government Publications
    • Research, primary, statistics


Use a library database

  • Journals
    • Scholarly, research, in-depth, bibliography
  • Magazines
    • Current, popular culture, opinions, summary
  • Newspapers
    • Current events, popular, opinions
  • Trade/Professional
    • Practitioner perspective, trends, products, techniques

Use Internet search tool (Google, Bing, etc.)

  • Web/Internet
    • Current, expert and popular opinion

Use Google Scholar

  • Journals
    • Scholarly, research, in-depth, bibliography

Step 3: Evaluate your information using the 5W + 1H model.  

  • Use the Advanced evaluation techniques tab on the left.

How to get help

If you need immediate assistance, check the Ask Us 24/7 link.

Good luck on your research project!