From topic to search
We will use the following essay question as an example but you can apply this to just about every single essay question you approach.
‘What led to the extinction of prehistoric animals in the Australasia region?’
Step 1: Isolate your key words
Identify the key concepts in your topic. A key concept is an important idea in the question or statement.
In our example, the key concepts would be ‘extinction’, ‘prehistoric animals’ and ‘Australasia region’.
Step 2: Combine search terms
Rather than search for each separate concept, use AND to combine each concept in a single search. This is a faster and more effective way to search.
Place phrases within double inverted commas. This ensures both words will be returned together in your search results.
“prehistoric animal” AND extinction AND Australasia
Step 3: Use similar terms
Keyword searching only retrieves exactly what you search for so it’s important to consider what other terms could be used to describe your topic.
For example, Australasia could also be described as Asia-Pacific or Oceania.
Once you have identified similar words, you can combine them in your search by grouping them all with brackets and separating them using the word OR.
(Australasia OR “asia-pacific” OR oceania)
If you’re having trouble thinking of similar terms, use a thesaurus.
Step 4: Put it all together
Combine your keywords and similar terms into your search like this:
(“prehistoric animal” OR megafauna OR dinosaur) AND (extinction OR “ice age” OR meteorite) AND (Australasia OR “asia-pacific” or oceania)
This ensures that you will get a variety of sources for your assignment.