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MHS Library | Research

Quick Tips

  1. Read and understand the task description. 
  2. Understand how your task will be marked by examining the assessment rubric.
  3. Check the sources required, eg. a mix of books and web resources? Peer-reviewed articles (in Ebsco database)?
  4. Identify keywords from your task topic for your search.
  5. Develop a search strategy* using your keywords.
  6. Use Boolean operators (and/or/not) to refine your searching.

You can download a search plan template (source: University of Melbourne) - see below.

Search in Google Scholar for academic results.

Having trouble coming up with keywords?

  • Try looking at the terms used in your set assignment and textbooks.
  • You could also use a reference source, such as dictionaries, encyclopedia (or study design for VCE) to clarify the definition of keywords and concepts. A thesaurus can help you find related terms and synonyms.
  • As well as including related terms, it can be useful to consider broader (You may be getting too few results because your topic is too narrow) and narrower terms (You need to use more specific terms).

Consider common spelling variations when planning your search, eg. behaviour/behavior; centre/center.


The information on this guide has been modified from  Melbourne University Beginning Research libguides.

Developing a search strategy

1. Establish the main topics or themes in your research question

For example, if your project involves alternative energy sources:

  • alternative
  • energy

2. Brainstorm a list of keywords for each of the main topics or themes

For example, for the term Energy, you might think of the words:

    • Renewable energy
    • Energy resources
    • Energy consumption
    • Solar energy
    • Geothermal resources

Note: this is not a complete list, you will need to brainstorm your own list of keywords.

3. Develop a search strategy by combining your keywords

You can then try searching in the library catalogue and databases using combinations of your keywords.

It's best to start out with a broad search that just uses a few keywords. If you get lots of results you can then narrow your search by adding more keywords.