Module 2: How to formulate a good search query?

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1.1 The exploratory phase: explore and define the subject

A first important step in obtaining relevant search terms is exploring and defining your subject, which can be done by: 

  • making use of general search engines on the internet;
  • utilizing (online) reference works (cf. encyclopedia, dictionaries - see module 1);
  • browsing through (scientific) web directories;
  • going through scientific and/or review journals, etc.

The objective of this phase is not only to get more information on the subject and to find relevant search terms, but also to verify which subcategories this subject may contain.


Often clustering search engines (like are also fit for searching for subcategories of a certain domain very quickly. After completing a search query on a certain search term, these search engines display, next to the search results, a list of subcategories of that domain and/or related subjects.