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Information Retrieval Guide

Planning Information Retrieval

Good planning is the key to a successful information retrieval.

  • What kind of information are you looking for? Do you wish to find generic information about the subject as broadly as possible or is it more important to concentrate to a certain part or theme of the subject?
  • What do you know about the subject beforehand? Is there comprehensively published literature about the subject or would research reports and articles offer the most up-to-date information?

By making some quick basic searches at the first stage of the information retrieval, you can get a basic overview if the subject has been studied earlier and what kind of information is available about it.

  • Basic searches are also a great way to familiarize yourself with the subject and with the available amount of the information.
  • The broad basic searches also increase your general knowledge of the subject and with that help to develop the search plan for example in regard to the keywords being used.

A mind map is also helpful in perceiving the subject.

  • Mind map clarifies concepts which are related to the subject.
  • It also illustrates relations between the concepts and helps in the defining of keywords and search words to be used in subsequent searches.

Remember also to define boundaries for the subject at hand, so that the information retrieval does not end up being too large to handle and analyze properly!

Mind map

Example of a mind map with the subject of Finnish summer.

Search words

Before you begin searching, take a moment to think what are the central concepts of your subject?

Broader terms

  • Is your subject a part of a bigger thing or theme?
  • For example: cars -> transportation, automotive industry

Narrower terms

  • Does your subject contain any subthemes or is it made up of smaller things?
  • For example: cars -> sports cars, minivans

Related terms

  • Synonyms and abbreviations
  • For example: cars -> automobiles

Where can you find search words?

  • From articles
  • From textbooks
  • From reference books and dictionaries for example MOT
  • From tables of content, summaries and bibliographies
  • From lexicons and ontologies for example YSO

For optimal results, remember to try multiple different  search words in different combinations!

Search words from Centria-Finna

In this example someone has found a book from Centria-Finna which is relevant for one's subject. In the details of the book one can find a list of subjects, and some or all of them might be relevant search words to be used in other searches!