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Information Literacy

Planning the information search

When searching for information for your university studies, it is important to begin by planning your search and think about what search words are the best ones to use. Information searching takes time and it might feel confusing at the start. Remember that information searching is a process.

Information Searching Step-by-Step

Press Present and navigate the presentation with the arrows:

Defining the Topic

When planning your information search, think about the following questions:

  • what topic do I need information about?
  • what does the topic include, what does it not include?
  • what is the key point of the topic?
  • how am I approaching the topic?
  • what do I already know about the subject?
  • how old should the information be?
  • what language do I need information in?

Your answers will define your information need and steer you towards the most suitable information sources. To find the information you need you must experiment, try different methods and sources.

To avoid unnecessary work and mistakes, plan your information retrieval carefully. Always document both your plan and the search process with its different stages, especially if you are doing a very extensive information search. It is easy to return to well-documented plans and events later.

Choose Search Words

Scientific information retrieval usually starts with defining the research area of the work at hand, whether it is an essay or some other form of assignment. The starting point for you is to consider the terminology and the interrelationships between terms in your field. Pay special attention to synonyms and alternative concepts to describe the area of interest. You may even draw a chart of the concepts and key words that you can think of.

Dictionaries, encyclopedias, text books and thesauruses will help you find search words. Also personal and geographical names can be used as search words.

Subject Terms

When you know what information you want to find, try to put it as clearly as you can to the search program you are using.

When a publication (e.g. a book or journal article) is registered in a database, subject terms for describing the content are added. The subject terms work as #hashtags. Search for information by using these hashtags/subject terms and you will receive better and more focused search results. If you want to find more information on a subject, have a look on what subject terms are used to describe the publications found and use these terms in your own searches.

The default for many databases is the keyword search with any words in a natural language as search words. The result of a keyword search may be very extensive, since the search engine will look for the word in all fields of the reference records.

Watch the tutorial to learn more about subject terms and how they can be useful:


Thesauruses, dictionaries and encyclopedias help you find suitable terms for your search. The thesauruses are either general or subject specific. Choose the most suitable one for your needs.

MOT Dictionaries

Use MOT Dictionaries to translate both single words and longer texts. You can also use MOT Dictionaries to practice phrases in different languages.