Search techniques

This section describes some important techniques that can be employed for efficient and effective information searching. For a successful information search, the following steps should be followed:

Search formulation

For searchers to retrieve information, their needs must be expressed in the form of queries that are interpretable by the information system. Search formulation is analysis of a topic to recognize keywords and concepts that describe the topic.  Use these keywords and concepts as search terms in the databases. During search formulation think of:

  • Synonyms: e.g.sexual violence, sexual harassment, sexual crime, sexual assault, sexual abuse
  • Phrases:e.g. food security
  • Acronyms: e.g. CaMV - Cauliflower mosaic virus
  • Broader, narrower and related terms: e.g.livestock - cattle/ sheep/ donkey
  • Scientific Vs common names: e.g. Manihot esculenta /Cassava

As a general guideline, the broader the terms the greater the chances of getting more information both relevant and irrelevant. Narrow or specific terms usually give fewer results but most relevant. It is thus recommended to start with specific terms and if not getting enough information then go for a broader.

Choose right sources

After obtaining appropriate keywords and concepts, one should identify the right information source(s) to use for searching. It is important to begin a search with the most relevant source for the subject area and search it thoroughly before moving onto another source. This require that information searchers be familiar with a range of information sources in order to pick the rightstarting place. For example, it is important to visit the library website or consult librarians to know available e-resources relevant to you.

Select the right search tools

Actual searching can be done by entering keywords in search boxes (search engines) or through browsing the organized topics. In using search engines, the following tools help you narrow down a search when getting too many hits or broaden a search when getting to few hits: