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Developing an information search strategy: Introduction

Simple but efficient actions for a documentalist to assess the latest developments on a topic


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Definition and objectives

Developing an information search strategy means to make the best use of the added value of document sources selected to maximise your selections and browsing through large masses of digital information: Web pages, bibliographic elements, full text, factual data, pictures.

The added value of the sources depends on:

  • how the documents are described (key words).
  • search operators and possibilities for restrictions available to narrow down your selections.
  • possibilities for bouncing from one document to another.

It is an iterative procedure which gradually leads to increasingly relevant key words for documents which are increasingly adequate to your search topic.

The gradual affirmation of an underlying question, the description of a topic by key words and the available possibilities for selection gradually shape and refine the landscape of a search: its authors, its reviews, its laboratories, its key words, its perspectives, its methods, its results, its centre and periphery.

The iterative stages

Several stages may be identified:

  1. Analysing the topic.
  2. Choosing key words so as to best define it in a document source.
  3. Choosing information sources.
  4. Maximising the available tools to run a document search and refine your selections: using search operators and restrictions
  5. Browsing from one document to another, using all the possibilities for bouncing.
  6. Analysing the results and enhancing the enquiry.

A limited rationality

The strategies and document knowledge described in this guide are only efficient to a limited and variable degree. They work diversely depending on the results aimed at, the sources used and the methodologies applied.

However, if a document request produces even one satisfactory result out of three, it will save a considerable amount of time to the researcher who can rationalise and maximise their progression, both documentary and intellectual.

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Hervé Le Men
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To cite this guide

Le Men, Hervé, Belvèze, Damien. "Developing an information search strategy". In UBL (Université Européenne de Bretagne). Formadoct. Rennes: UBL, May 2010 (last updated on 03.07.13). Available on: