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Skills at Library: Search strategy

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Search strategy




A search strategy is a personal plan for your literature searching process and serves as a place where you can record your research journey. There are many benefits to planning searches ahead time, and the more thought you put into this step, the more you will gain from it.

An effective search strategy can help you allocate a realistic amount of time for literature searching, stay organised throughout your research, and manage information overload. It can also guide your decision-making, and help you know when you have captured enough credible sources and can stop your search.

This section on developing a search strategy covers:

  • Allocating time for your searches
  • Identifying keywords to use in your search criteria
  • How to keep a record of your search process
  • Deciding where to search for the best results

Creating a search strategy and taking detailed research notes is important in all subject areas, and you might be given a template to follow. If you have not been given a template, you can use this downloadable worksheet and adapt it to your needs.

Click to expand presentation: Creating a search strategy

Already familiar with creating search strategies? Continue to the next section on 'Advanced search techniques' or return to the Skills at Library homepage to select another lesson.

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Here's some quick links to get you started with planning your search strategy

Skills at Library skill rating: intermediate

Creating a search strategy is an intermediate information literacy skill, and requires developed information literacy skillsan understanding of the different types of sources you will need, and organisation skillsIf you're not confident in these areas, take a few minutes to refresh your knowledge. Once you're familiar with these skills and concepts, you'll be ready to start planning your search strategy. 

Continue learning with Skills at Library to develop advanced skills.

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Want to learn more?



Downloadable search strategy booklet was adapted with thanks from a resource created by Alicia Smith in 2023 for Health and Social Care students.


Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work by University of Essex Library and Cultural Services is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence.



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Created by: Clarissa St Yves & Oona Ylinen