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Computer Science

Search Strategy

When searching for information on a topic, it is important to be organised and have a clear search strategy in mind. Searching involves a number of steps, and you may have to repeat steps as you fine tune your search. Even if you have a topic, you must also find a research question, which identifies what you want to investigate.

When are you finished? The aim is to keep searching until you have sufficient information to enable you to answer your research question.

iSearch, Information Search Process
Information search process: RMIT University Library


Mind map

Before starting your search: Make a broad scan on your topic, mapping down interesting words that match you research question, as keywords

  • Search for information and read about facts that are new to you.
  • Analyze your topic  –  try to narrow down your research question.
  • Try to think of synonyms and look them up in dictionaries etc.
  • Update your mind map with new concepts and keywords.


To retrieve relevant search results it's important to identify and use keywords that describe the main ideas of your topic or research question. Expand the list of keywords by finding alternative words. Keywords are also called "subject terms”. You will find that some databases suggest keywords to use, and some have a list of word called "thesaurus" - where you can find useful keywords.

Tips for using keywords:

  • Take some time to get familiar with the database, for example which settings apply,
    where do you find keywords? 
  • Reuse the keywords you find in other databases and resources.
  • When reading an interesting article, write down the keywords!
  • Take notes of all the keywords you find and use when you are searching. 
  • Are there words or concepts, important for your topic, but you can not find them as keywords in the database? Then search for these words in the freetext search instead.



After formulating a research question, the worksheet can serve as a tool that helps you to progress with your information search in a structured manner.

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