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Criminology Master Thesis

Finding your key concepts

You do not have to have a clear and concise research question to get started searching for information. However, you need to have some kind of idea of ​​what you want to explore and start from those concepts.

Let's say you are interested in surveillance cameras and their effects on citizens perceptions of safety. What are the most important aspects or key terms? Work with these initially. Take some time to work on synonyms and related words. While you are searching, you will revise your keywords throughout the search process.

Download work sheet for key concept (word)

Search techniques

In order to search effectively and find relevant hits, it is important to understand how the databases interpret your keywords and how you can combine them.

Combining search terms with OR

safety OR secure

  • retrieves any of the search terms
  • the more search terms you combine with OR the better you cover the research area

Combining search terms with AND

"camera surveillance" AND safety

  • retrieves all of the concepts
  • makes the search narrower

Phrase searching

"fear of crime"

  • use if you want to search for a specific phrase
  • excludes records where the search terms aren't written as a phrase
  • narrows the search


Polic* retrieves both policing and police

  • Often done with an asterisk (*)
  • searches for word variations
  • broadens the search

Using an interesting article to find more

When finding an interesting article you might want to try the strategies below in order to identify other search terms and related research articles.

Subject terms

Check how the database has tagged an interesting article with subject terms and author keywords. Are there terms that you have not tried yet? You might find terms that better describe different aspects of your topic. Search further within your topic with these terms to find even more relevant articles.

Backward chaining

Check the reference lists of relevant sources to see which works they have cited. This is a good way of find earlier research about your topic.

Forward chaining

You can also check if your chosen source have been cited by someone else. This works best for articles that are a few years old, as they are more likely to have been cited than brand new sources. In Google Scholar, Search for the title and click "Cited by..." to find other works citing your chosen source.

Documenting the search process

Documenting your search process helps you remember which search terms you have already tried, but didn't use, so you won't repeat the same search. Useful information is:

  • Name of database
  • Date when search was performed
  • Which search terms you used
  • How you combined the search terms

Create database account – save searches and articles

Create an account

Click "Create My Research Account" and then complete the registration. The database account is free of charge.


Save articles

Check the box to the left of each reference. Then click on the dots to the right of each reference, you can choose several references at the same time. Choose "Save to my research account".

You can also mail the article, click the envelope in the same menu.


Save your search

  • Click "Save search/alert"
  • Create a name and click "Save"
  • The searh is saved on your account, click on the symbol below: