Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

International Social Work year 2 - information skills: 2. Search


After the orientation phase, you will usually conclude that you need to delineate your research. Delineation means defining the elements of your question. This clarifies what you are searching for and helps you carry out your search in a more targeted way.

If you have a well-delineated question, your search will be much more efficient!

Open or closed questions

A search query can be open or closed. In most cases, a closed question can only be answered with yes/no/maybe. Open questions usually deliver specific, factual information.

Example of a closed question:

Do troubled families need interventions to increase their social networks?
Possible answer: Yes/No

Example of an open question:

Which interventions increase social networks for troubled families?

Try to formulate a main question that consists of three elements. In most cases, these are target group, topic and process. In the example they are, troubled families, social networks and interventions.

Formulating a search query

You use your problem statement to reach the search query. This could be one search query or it could be a search query (main question) that is divided into sub-questions. Building on the example, you could formulate the following main question:

"What interventions are used to increase the social networks of troubled families."

And the following sub-questions:

- Are the interventions sensitive to geographical differences, e.g., city or countryside?
- Which interventions work best for which age population?

It is important to formulate your search query as carefully as possible, because this will increase your chances of finding information that is relevant enough to answer your search query.

The 4 requirements for the research question:
1. In the question form (How, what, which, why ...?).
2. Complex question (Not directly answerable).
3. It must be researchable (feasible; time, resources, personnal, equipment)
4. Clarity about purpose of research (what to look for) 

Research question en search strategy