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Information Skills: 1: Preparation

Searching for literature

Search in Google Scholar

Google Scholar Search

Determining your information need

The information you’re searching for is wholly dependent on your information need. Your information need is the basis for formulating your search query.

The examples in this guide are based on the following information need:
“You’re a student and you want to know how social media can be used to achieve better academic results.”

Familiarising yourself with the topic

It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with your topic for a number of reasons:

·        in doing so, you investigate what you already know about the topic,

·        ​what you still want to find out, how exactly your topic is defined, and

·        you start to feel familiar with the terminology that is commonly used within this topic (you will need this to determine your search terms).

There are various ways to familiarise yourself with a topic:

·        approach experts,

·        consult reference works,

·        surf the Internet

·        do a broad search in a library catalogue and databases

·       

In the orientation phase, you can ask yourself the following questions:

·        For whom is the question important? For yourself (personal) or for a client (business)?

·        Are you looking for factual information, or are you more interested in the different opinions and views on your topic?

·        How much time and which resources do you have, and how comprehensive should your research report be?

By doing this, you indicate the context in which you’ll search for information. This can have an impact on the information (sources) that you select.

Formulating a problem statement

A good problem statement answers questions relating to who, what, where, when and how.

With regard to the example above of the student’s need for information about social media use, you could ask:

·        Who? Which specific group of students are we looking at? Age, level of education, gender, etc.

·        What? Which social media are we concerned with? Facebook, Twitter, etc.

·        Are the effects the same for boys and girls?