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EN1990 - English for Engineering

Steps to Creating a Search Strategy

Step 1: What is your research topic or question?

It' usually easier to come up with keywords if you can formulate your topic into a sentence or a question. 


What was the cause of failure for the Tacoma Narrows Bridge?

Step 2: Pick your keywords

Figure out your keywords: your keywords are the main concepts from the research topic or question. 


  • "Tacoma Narrows Bridge"
  • Failure Analysis

Step 3: Find synonym

Use related words and phrases (synonym): There are multiple ways to express the same concept. 


"Tacoma Narrows Bridge" can also be: "Tacoma Narrows" or Suspension Bridge

Failure analysis can also be: failure, collapse, forensic analysis

Step 4: Evaluate your results set

Read the abstract and information and information about the results and identify potential resources to use.

Scenario 1: Too few results found

  • Try to use fewer keywords
  • Use different keyword combinations
  • See if you need to change to a larger concept. Example instead of using Kenya use Africa. Instead of searching for your target area, search for other areas and see if information can be applied to what you need.

Scenario 2: Too many results found

  • Limit results using facets/limiter functions of database
  • Add additional keywords to add quality or focus

Adjust your list of keywords as you search and learn about your topic and appropriate vocabulary.

Step 5: Search again

Research is iterative and you will have to keep searching and improving your search to find all the resources you need.

Content of this portion borrowed from: Ryerson University Library & Archives

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