Search techniques

A well-considered search technique, using carefully selected search tools, is crucial for a good search result. Both the structure and accuracy of searching is required. The choice of search terms, how you use them and where you search are very important. Search terms may be grouped into blocks which are then combined with Boolean operators. Combine different possibilities like searching for a part of a word by truncating or combine words into phrases. We will explain more closely what this means further on in the guide.

Broad and narrow searches

Literature searches may be described as broad or narrow. Broad (sensitive) searches retrieve more documents and risk yielding many irrelevant search results. Narrow (specific) searches result in fewer hits and may cause you to miss out on relevant articles. A systematic literature review aims to compile all available research results in a specific area and should therefore be of the sensitive type. 


The difference between wide search and narrow search


Source: SBU 2021

Finding useful search terms

In order to translate the research question into an exhaustive search query, it is crucial to identify useful search terms. You may find such keywords in different parts of key publications, articles that are central to the research area in which you search. Check whether authors or publishers have assigned articles their own keywords, which keywords are useful and how they may be combined.


Search support for researchers

LiU researchers and PhD students can consult a librarian, for example when doing a literature review for a dissertation or a systematic review. Together we will look at your specific research questions and discuss topics such as:

  • selecting databases and search tools
  • selecting keywords
  • constructing search strings
  • documenting searches
  • managing search results

Make an appointment by completing this form:

Search support for researchers