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Information seeking

How to plan your search?

Begin the information seeking process by planning it beforehand. This facilitates the search and you will find appropriate sources right away. By giving some thought to what your exact information need is, what it entails, you can avoid making useless searches. Information seeking is then also more efficient.

First define:empty mindmap

  • on which topic do I need information,
  • what kind of information I need,
  • from what point of view do I approach the topic,
  • what are the key concepts of my topic.

In the planning stage it is helpful to use various thesauri and dictionaries. At first you can familiarize yourself with the topic on a general level and, for instance, browse theses written on the subject. It is helpful to draw a concept or mind map of your topic and the concepts and search terms related to it to crystallize their relations. What larger concept is your topic part of, how can it be narrowed down? In this section, you can find tips for planning your search.

Provide background information

If the subject is not already familiar, first familiarize yourself with it. In the early stages, it is worthwhile to grow knowledge of the topic by utilizing a wide range of information sources, such as the internet, journals, books and databases. Initial information searches can be done with simple quick searches to help you get an idea of what has previously been studied on the topic. At the same time, one can already extract keyword ideas as the basis for your own searches.

Ideas for keywords

In databases, search doesn't usually work the way Google or other Internet search engine does. It is not worth typing the search as a whole sentence into the search box. The topic of the search must be chopped into sections and use single search words together. It is worth to use some time to come up with keywords. The fact is that the search is just as good as the search words are, that is, it is largely up to the choice of search words whether the search is successful or not.

Search terms

Search terms form the basis of information retrieval. It is helpful to utilize thesauri to define and choose search terms. In databases, materials are described by search terms so that information seekers can find relevant information more easily. With the help of thesauri, you can also find coordinate terms and synonyms as well as the foreign equivalents of terms. Particularly when using scientific databases, it is helpful also to apply more specific keyword searches targeted only on the assigned search terms of materials instead of e.g. all words of an article. Keep in mind that thesauri are database specific and that you should therefore check your search terms from the thesaurus of each database!

So, by utilizing search terms, you can define your search and on the side you can use other search terms of your own.

Video about how to choose and combine search words. (2:25)

Video: Ray W. Howard Library at Shoreline Community College (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Video about how to use keywords. (3:48)

Video: OSLIS Elementary Videos (CC BY-SA 4.0)

In Kaakkuri and Finna you can find search terms from the description of materials under the heading Subjects. See the picture here.

subject words in Kaakkuri

How to identify different databases

An important element of information literacy and professional expertise is the ability to identify central sources of information in your own field. Sources of information can, for example, be books, articles, theses, statistics, patents, standards, reference works, laws, specialists etc. Information sources can be either in printed or electronic format, and it is good to keep in mind that for instance an interview of a specialist can also be information retrieval. You can find the sources of information provided by the library in Kaakkuri and help for evaluating and choosing your sources in the guides of different fields.

When planning your information retrieval, it is useful to first consider what kind of information you need. For instance, if the topic of your learning assignment is very current, searches from article databases, printed journals and information available freely on the web might be the most useful. On the other hand, if you are working on your thesis you need to refer to earlier research, you probably also need to seek for information in books, both electronic and printed, and various databases including theses. The library provides access to many databases, reference works and dictionaries for the students and staff of Xamk also off-campus (log in with your Xamk ID).

Video about databases (2:34)

Video: Yavapai College Library

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