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Research: Plan


The information on this guide has been copied and/or modified from  Melbourne University Beginning Research libguides.

Quick Tips

  1. Identify keywords
  2. Develop a search strategy using your keywords
  3. Use Boolean operators (and/or/not) to refine your searching
  4. Find useful terms in your search results
  5. Develop a search strategy

Tips for identifying keywords

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 handbooks 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 and narrower terms.

Consider common spelling variations when planning your search.

eg behaviour/behavior;  humour/humor;  




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.

4. Use a search plan to build and improve your search