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2.1 Define your search terms

Identify and obtain  information
* 2.1 Define your search terms
2.2 An example search strategy
2.3 Search strategies
2.4 Select an appropriate tool
2.5 Keep up to date
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How do you find items or information on a specific topic?

The most efficient way to begin is to analyse your topic by identifying the key concepts. We did this in 1.3 Map your ideas by developing a concept map.

For the research topic:

The social and economic impacts of gambling.

The following key concepts were identified:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3 Concept 4
social economic impacts gambling

Think of other relevant search terms

Consider using alternative search terms including broader, narrower, related terms.

Consider Example
synonyms try, seek, test, attempt
broader terms communication (for verbal, non-verbal, talking, listening)
acronyms ECU, Edith Cowan University
variations in spelling of terms labour, labor
plurals cactus, cacti
scientific and common names phascolarctos cinereus, koala
terminology peculiar to a country car (Australian), vehicle (U.S.)

This process will ensure you get the broadest possible coverage of the literature when you search. Alternative search terms may be found via your background reading, thesauri, and subject fields in search tools.

Generating alternative search terms

So alternative search terms for our topic may be:

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3 Concept 4

economic impacts




Activity indicator How many alternative search terms can you identify for 'car’?

a. 0-2
b. 3-5
c. 6-8
d. 9 or more


How do you combine these terms together to form an effective search strategy?

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