Efficient information search

Analyze and specify which information you need. It is useful to summarize this need in a short phrase or in specific concepts.

Think about whether you need to limit information based on a specific time period or geographical area, in which languages ​​you can read it, if you need a specific type of document...

Once you have limited your need for information, you can know which information resources you should consult and how to do a good search. 

Decide in which databases will you look for the information, depending on the topic of your search.

Before searching, it is useful to check the manuals or help pages to know how to interrogate each database: for example, Scopus:

Build your search strategy and limit your search according to the temporal, geographic or linguistic scope that interests you.

Recommendations if you search using keywords (free language):

  • use synonyms
  • If you look for an acronym, look also for the developed form (ex.: UPC and Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya)
  • Search in the languages ​​where the information may be. In international databases, we will look for at least in English.
  • Use a proper level of specialization

You can also search with controlled language. In this case, you must select the appropriate terms from a list (subject headings or thesaurus).

Boolean (and, or, not) operators are used to combine the search terms.

Proximity operators are used to retrieve nearby words (which appear in the same field, exact phrase...)

The truncations allow to extend the search: computation * recover computers, computational... The symbol varies according to the database.

The substitution symbols serve to retrieve different characters in the same word: aluminum? m recover aluminum and aluminum . The symbol varies according to the database.

For more information, see the tutorial on the search strategy.

Search by fields retrieves the terms in the fields of the database that we specify (title, author, institution ...)

  • Are there documents that are not relevant to your work?
  • Have you retrieved no document at all?
  • Are there documents missing from the results that you know that are in the database?

In these cases, refine the search strategy: change the terms, limit or expand the search.

If you have found a relevant document, it may be useful to look at how it has been indexed within the database to find similar ones.

If the recovered documents are useful for your search, save the bibliographic references to be able to consult and cite later. A reference manager such as Mendeley can help you.

The search strategy

Last update: 06 / 05 / 2019