Wellsboro High School Library Media Center


Steps in Online Searching
Note:  These steps are not necessarily performed in the following exact order but "interactively," as you revise your strategies and adapt them to your search results.  You may need to go back to some questions several times.
1.  Identify the problem
    a.  Can I state my search problem in a clear question?
    b.  What type of information do I need?
    c.  How much information do I need?
2.  Select appropriate databases/search tools
    a.  Does it cover my subject?
    b.  Does it contain the formats I need to answer my questions?
    c.  Are there abstracts that help me decide if the text will be
    d.  Does it cover the time period I am interested in?
    e.  Can I understand the information contained in it?
3.  Brainstorm keywords
    a.  What are my major concepts?
    b.  What synonyms, broader or narrower terms, or related ideas
        could I use?
    c.  How will I express keywords with Boolean operators (and, or,
    d.  Should I be concerned about plurals or other forms of words?
    e.  Are there any proper names that would focus my search?
    f.  Have I spelled everything correctly?
4.  Subject vs. keyword search (subject directory vs. search engine)
    a.  Do I have more than one concept to search?
    b.  Am I browsing for a topic or looking for a way to narrow a
        broad topic?
5.  Refine the search online (Searching is an interactive process!)
    a.  Are my hits relevant, readable, accessible?
    b.  Have I tried different combinations of keywords?
    c.  Should I use broader or narrower terms?
    d.  Do I need to ask the teacher-librarian information specialist
        for advice?
    e.  Should I try another database?
    f.  Is my topic really not "doable"?  Should I consider another?
Work Referenced
Valenza, Joyce Kasman.  Power Tools Recharged:  125+ Essential Forms
     and Presentations for Your School Library Information Program.
     Chicago:  American Library Association, 2004.
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