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How to Search for Sources and Manage Them

How to develop a search strategy

Select Sources and Tools

© Photo by qimono, pixabay license

Once you have formulated your topic, determine which resources to consult. To get more results, do not use just one.

Where to search?

  • Open web
  • A starting point for research to find easily openly available material and get an overview of a topic
+) High quantity of results -) Too many results
+) Multiple and varied languages -) Variable quality of information
+) Quick and easy to use           -) Ranking Manipulation
+) Familiar -) Commercial results
  • Library catalogues
    Useful tools to search libraries' electronic and physical resources
+) Selected material             
-) Variable quantity of results
-) Not as familiar as Google
  • Databases
    Access to scholarly material from academic publishers or specific information providers
+) High-quality and often peer-reviewed material                          -) Variable quantity of results
+) Thesaurus or index of keywords -) Mostly in English
  -) Not as familiar as Google
-) Access to the database depends on your library's subscription

Types of Documents

Where to search for a specific type of document?

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources Secondary sources Tertiary sources
First-hand information, original documents, raw evidence Second-hand information, interpretations, commentary, analysis of primary sources, original research Summaries or condensed versions of materials, usually with references to primary or secondary sources
e.g. speeches, interviews, photographs, original literature, statistical data e.g. most books, journal articles that analyse previous research studies, reviews, literary criticisms e.g. dictionaries, encyclopedias, Wikipedia, handbooks, databases, bibliographies

Primary sources are more credible as evidence, but secondary sources show how your work relates to existing research. They complement each other to help you build a convincing argument.

Tertiary sources do not provide original ideas or analysis. Instead, they collect, index, and provide insight from primary and secondary sources. This means that while you can use them to learn more about a topic you are new to, you are unlikely to cite them.