Module 2: How to formulate a good search query?

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1.4 Tips for finding relevant search terms

  • Explore your subject. 
    For example, using general search engines and (online) reference works.
  • Use the correct terminology. For finding it, there are three methods:
    • Two-phase search
      Example:
      You want to write a paper on Gilles de la Tourette syndrome.
      • phase 1: Enter a term in Google that is closest to what you are looking for, for example Tourette. In the list of results the term Tourette Syndrome will appear several times. This is the scientific name for Gilles de la Tourette syndrome.
      • phase 2: Search with keywords "Tourette Syndrome".
    • Use key words from a decent reference work.
    • Use key words from a thesaurus.
  • Use synonyms.
  • Primarily use English search terms.
  • Define sufficiently.
    Search terms have to describe the subject of the assignment as specifically as possible, in order to avoid irrelevant or an excessive number of search results. 
    Example:
    When looking for information on human anatomy, search by "human anatomy" (and possible alternatives) rather than by "anatomy".
  • Avoid spelling and writing errors. 

Tip:
Capital letters, accents and punctuation are disregarded by most search robots and search functions on online databases.