Search strategy

Use a search strategy to efficiently and effectively find the information you need to answer your research question.

Ask yourself these questions to create an effective search strategy:

  1. What am I searching for? ​
  2. Where do I search?
  3. How do I search?
  4. How do I select/evaluate?

1. What am I searching for?

What is the topic you need information on? How do you formulate an appropriate search question and what search terms fit your search? 

Do you have an idea in what type of publication you might find this information? On the publication type page, you can learn more about searching for different publication types.

2. Where do I search?

Depending on what you are searching for, you decide where you are going to search. Choose the most suitable database/catalogue/website for your search query. Look at search engines or choose a search engine on our page about search engines per discipline.

For more information on where to search, see the LibGuide Search strategy.

3. How do I search?

Search efficiently and use relevant search terms in the right combination (e.g. using the AND/OR operators). In the Libguide Search strategy you can read more about the using and combining of search terms.

There are several search methods. The bibliographical method means that you search scientific search systems using search terms. The snowball search and citation search means using information that you already have about a publication. You go back in time by searching through the references and forward in time by searching through citations. Whether and how exactly you can use these methods depends on the possibilities that the search system offers.

You can also search  for specific publication types.

4. How do I select/evaluate?

Check: does the information answer your research (sub)question? And is the information of a good quality?

Before you use the sources you have found, evaluate them on relevance and their scientific nature to increase the reliability of your research. On the page valuating Sources and in the Libguide Evaluating Sources you can read more about methods and tools.

How do you get access to materials?

After following an appropriate search strategy, you will have found suitable sources that can provide an answer to your research question. On the page about online access, you can find more information on how to access licensed digital material.

On the page about search systems explained, you will find information about accessing the material in commonly used search systems.

You can also borrow physical material from the library. Visit our page about borrowing, requesting and reserving materials.

Need assistance?

The library offers online training courses to help develop your search strategy and other information literacy skills. Read all about it on our page about the Compass training courses.

Do you need assistance? Please send us an email at