Defining the search topic

Defining the search topic

– What problem are you trying to solve?
– What question are you trying to answer?

These are the types of questions you will have to answer the first when you analyse your information needs and identify the key concepts. Concept is a general drift or idea of a thing or event. Break your topic into concepts, as basics as possible.

If you are unfamiliar with your topic, the first task is to get an overview of it. The better you prepare yourself, the better the search will be and the more relevant the answers.

  • Dictionaries (e.g. MOT), encyclopedias, handbooks and textbooks can be a useful starting point in your research. They can help you define terms or provide a background information. Obtaining background information on your subject can provide you with a context for your research and help you narrow your focus.
  • Reading a general text or doing some browsing on the Internet can be also a helpful way of clarifying your thoughts.

Consepts and search terms

When you start serious searching, you can now specify the concepts. Then you list search terms for each concept. See more about search terms on the next page.

There may be one or more search concepts. Depending on the search topic, you can define the key concepts and the supplemental concepts. The key concepts are the very essential core of the topic and the supplemental concepts help to outline the question.

It is a good idea to define the concepts at the beginning, in a very reduced and plain way. Doing so, their combining later doing searches is easy and flexible.


Topic: Heat treatment effects on wood surface quality
Main concepts: heat, treatment, wood, surface
Supplemental concept: quality

Are any of the parts more important than others? What are the aspects you decide to focus on? These aspects will be your inclusion criteria and the aspects you don’t want to focus on will be your exclusion criteria.