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Information Seeking Compass

Guide to help with your information searching

3. Focus on your topic

3 Focus to your interest

Focus the search

  • If at the beginning you let your thoughts and ideas fly freely, now is the time to navigate towards your subject and focus the search
  • By trying different search methods and different databases, you can find new interesting keyword options
  • You will find that different results are found, some more appropriate to your topic than others
  • Test search words that suit your topic by trying the words you find and their combinations

Test with keyword search

  • keyword search looks for letter strings in different data in a book or article (title, keywords, abstract, sometimes full text)
  • by cutting the keyword, you can expand the search: different inflection formats and compound words
  • when your keyword includes two or more words, it may be marked by the quotes “social media” in the search
  • keyword search may produce too many or unrelated results

Keyword search is not as accurate as a subject search describing the subject.. Word search is not as accurate as a keyword search describing the subject. For example, a string back* can mean many things and produce irrelevant results, while the subject term back brings literature related to the functionality of the spine.

Focus the search with subject terms

  • In subject search, the agreed vocabulary terms, in other words, thesaurus is used
  • The search only targets words that describe the content of the publication in the database's subject field 
  • Accurate search if the relevant word you choose covers your topic well
  • Useful and effective in a wide range of data, such as a large article database.

Enable different vocabularies and thesauri and enhance your search. You can find thesauri online, as well as in the connection of some databases..

Information seeking is a smart use of appropriate words, not information technology!

  • find concepts related to your topic
  • look for exact terms as well as wider entities
  • also note other alternative or similar concepts

Watch the video: Find search words from thesauri


Assessment belongs to every stage of the process. This figure reminds of assessment and evaluation in the different situations.

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Evaluate your search terms

  • Should you use an exact subject term or some more general concept?
  • Take a hierarchy for your convenience: let vocabularies and thesauri to help you!


Search example

The topic “wellbeing experienced at work” or other concepts closely related to it may be sought, for example:

  • Burnout
  • Corporate culture
  • Job satisfaction
  • Work life balance
  • Employees
  • Occupational psychology
  • Work environment