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Information resources for Adventure and Outdoor Education: Basics of searching information

Getting started with searching information

The first step of every information search linked to studies is considering the given assignment. This helps you to determine what kind of sources you can use and to what extent the sources need to be scholarly. 

Choosing your research topic is another important phase. In most cases, it is useful to search for sources even before choosing or finalizing the topic. Exploring the topic helps you to see if there are good sources available that can support your work with the assignment or thesis.

For more in-depth information about the topic in English, see for example a guide produced by MIT Libraries. Humak library has also produced guides in Finnish.

Constructing a search strategy

Key things in constructing a search strategy are:

  • defining your topic 
  • identifying keywords and phrases
  • brainstorming alternate spellings, variants, related terms, and broader and narrower terms
  • considering what kind of terminology the author who has written about the topic has used
  • trying out different search terms and strategies

Example from the ERIC Thesaurus:

Search techniques

The most essential search techniques are different ways of combining your search terms and using the tools with which narrow down your search offered by the search interface.

Among the key tools are: 

  • combining the search terms with boolean logic and the AND, OR and NOT operators. The operators help you to connect your search words together to either narrow or broaden your set of results.
    • adventure AND education = for results that include both the terms adventure and education. 
    • adventure AND (education or learning) = for results that include the term adventure combined either with the word education or learning. 
    • adventure NOT kayaking = for results that include the term adventure but not the word kayaking. 
  • using phrase searching to specify that adjacent words be searched as phrases: "adventure education".
  • using truncation to include various word endings and spellings: adventur* (=adventure, adventurous etc.)
  • avoid using words that are insignificant to your search and especially pay attention to stop words, such as a, the, of, be, if... Many databases ignore words like this from search statements so using them is not necessary. If words like this are significant for your search, make sure they are included. 
  • different search interfaces usually permit you to narrow down your search to material in a certain format, language, published at a certain time interval, etc. Use these possibilities to make your search more efficient and to save time