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serioussearchers

published by Joyce Valenza

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SECRET STRATEGIES 
FOR SERIOUS SEARCHERS
11
Think about your search habits! These useful strategies may be used independently or in combination with each other throughout your search process. 

When you stop to think, you'll discover that a fuller bag of tricks than you first imagined!

Like making a beautiful pearl from small bits of sand, this is the classic term for using one information discovery to find others. That one "killer" item might reveal leads in terms of vocabulary, subject headings, authors, journals, etc. Incorporate any finds, not in your initial strategy, into your subsequent strategies. 

Should a particular journal or magazine appear frequently in your results with relevant content, it likely has more to explore! In a database, it's easy and useful to scan multiple issues of the journal. Bonus: You may even discover a super-relevant theme issue.
4. CITATION CHAINING / SNOWBALL SEARCHING
3. PEARL GROWING 
Imagine words and phrases: Beyond the terms you might instinctively enter in a search box, what are the words and phrases you are likely to actually find in a truly relevant document of your dreams?
1. IMAGINING YOUR DREAM DOCUMENT 
Is that dream document more likely to be a book, a pdf report or white-paper, a film, a popular journal, a blog, a website, a presentation, etc.?  After you try an initial search in a database, you can use the facets that appear to filter for type. If you are searching Google, knowing when it is best to start with Google BooksGoogle Scholar or Google News, can make all the difference.
2. PREDICTING THE FILE TYPE
Citation chaining is the process by which you identify one solid information source, such as an article relevant to your topic, and mine its list of references for additional useful resources. Backward chaining or snowball searching is looking for the cited articles that came before the one you are examining. (Some may be critical; others may be obsolete. 

Forward chaining is locating the more recent writing of others who have cited the article. The moving backward and forward creates a chain of linked relevant literature. This is simple to do in Google Scholar. You can also personalize Google Scholar to link to articles to which the library has access.
5. JOURNAL RUN
6. LEVERAGING CONTROLLED VOCABULARY 
Databases are structured around hierarchical subject terms and used an agreed-up controlled vocabulary. Some have a thesaurus for you to consult. You may discover these terms in the beginning of your articles as well as on your results list. 
7. PERIPHERAL VISION: SEARCH LIKE A BIRD
Birds have a wider field of vision than humans. In addition to seeing straight ahead, they have side vision. We can train ourselves to look for surprises, not just precisely what we initially entered the search looking for. This allows us to discover unexpected terms and names and concepts and be able to incorporate these ideas into future searches. 
8. BUILDING BLOCKS
After brainstorming search terms and synonyms, it helps to consider your important concepts as facets, to be iteratively combined in a variety of different ways using Boolean operators OR and AND.  
9. AUTHOR SEARCHING
When you discover a particular author who regularly writes in your area of interest, you may benefit from searching the author's other works. In addition to subscription databases, clicking on an author's name in Google Scholar will lead to their Google Scholar Profile as well as other writings.

10. CONSULTING TRUSTED FRIENDS 
When you have limited subject knowledge and/or a limited understanding of the vocabulary of your search, it can be best to start by consulting a few trusted friends. This can include reading introductory articles in databases, starting in reference sources or Web subject directories or the cluster topic finders that appear in many student databases. (Markey calls this "getting a little help from your friends." p. 193-196.) 
THESAURUS
Of course, there are some very useful tricks you can use across databases and some search engines, like:

  • Use "Control F" for finding text within pages or documents
  • Using quotes for "phrase searching"
  • Using Google Advanced Search when precision matters

SOME FINAL TIPS
11. KNOW (AND USE) YOUR LIMITERS
Thoughtfully use those limiters format, academic/peer reviewed, subjects, publication, source type, database, etc. that appear after you hit "search"! (In Google, click on "tools.")
 
Bates, M.J., 1989. The design of browsing and techniques for the online search interface. Online Review,13(5), pp.407-424.

Hawkins, D. T., & Wagers, R. (1982). Online Bibliographic Search Strategy Development. Online6(3), 12-19.

Markey K. 2015. Online Searching: A Guide to Finding Information Efficiently and Effectively. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 978-1442238855 (paperback).

Quint, B. (1991). "Inside a searcher's mindThe seven stages of an online search--part 2." Online 15, 4 (July): 28-33. 

Joyce Kasman Valenza
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