Studying Effectively
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Search skills

To get the best out of online databases and search engines, improving your search skills can help you to:

  • Narrow down search results when a large amount of information is available
  • Extract only the most relevant information
  • Explore different aspects of a topic
  • Make your search more efficient and save time

Planning your search

Whether you are searching an online catalogue, a bibliographic database or using Google, it is helpful to plan your search in advance. This will save you time in the long-run.

  • Think about how you would describe your topic area
  • How would you translate your topic into keywords which the database or online search will understand?
  • Evaluate your results.  Has the search found relevant results?
  • How would you refine your search if you find too much information, too little information or irrelevant results?


These allow you to be specific about the topic area you are interested in. The following video shows you how to break down your topic into key concepts and consider alternative keywords and spellings.


 Alternatively, go to  Thinking about keywords (pdf).


Defining keywords is important wherever you are searching.  However, different search skills may be required to search the internet and bibliographic databases or online catalogues.  Another way of finding relevant information is to use  citation searching.

Students searching online

Further reading

Developing search strategies


  • Online research & information skills: Malaysia

Reading and interpreting sources and data


People who can help

Talk to someone in your school or a specialist support service


Studying Effectively

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