In Module 2: Identify and obtain information we looked at developing a search strategy. In most cases, you need to try a few different search strategies before you find the most effective for you. To determine whether you need to revise your search strategy, appraise your search results for:


quantity of search results

Look at the number of records that have been returned. Ask yourself:

  • Are there too many records to sift through?
  • Are there fewer records than expected?

You should not have to spend hours sifting through hundreds of records. Conversely, most undergraduate research topics should not result in zero search returns. Revising your search strategy is the most efficient way to solve these issues.


quality of search returns

Examine the information contained in the record. Ask yourself:

  • Who is the author? Has your lecturer, tutor or background reading mentioned this author?
  • Is it up to date? Does it need to be? Are recent developments covered?
  • If the record is for a periodical article, what is the title of the journal? Is it well known? Is it scholarly?


relevance of search results


Read the table of contents, abstract or summary. Ask yourself:

  • Does the information sound relevant?
  • Who is the intended audience?
    • Information aimed at the general public or secondary school students may not be appropriate for university level work.
    • Information aimed at researchers may be too specialised for your needs.
  • Does the information suit your needs?
    • Is the type of publication useful for your assignment?
    • Is the information comprehensive enough?
    • Does the information express a particular point of view?

at the subject terms that have been assigned to the record. Ask yourself:

  • Do they seem relevant?
  • Are they central or peripheral to your topic?

You may have to revise your search strategy.