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Information retrieval and use

Defining the topic and planning the search

Information retrieval like near enough everything else is good to start by making a plan. Before you can start planning your information retrieval, you need to define your research topic. Ask yourself what do you already know about the topic? What are the central concepts and theories relating to the topic?

Once you've defined your topic, you should consider where look for the information. Is it generic or scientific information that you're after? Are there specialist databases that you could use or can you find what you're looking for through Google? You should also start thinking about keywords and subject terms that you could use in your search. You'll achieve the best results in your information retrieval by using precise and specific search terms.

Mind maps or concept maps are a good way to clarify to yourself what information you are looking for and where you may be able to find it. There are several free mind map applications available online.

Source types

What kind of information is needed?

Your research topic or other information need defines what kind of information is needed. It is important to find right kind of information.  The information you need can be in articles, books, standards, news or statistics. Sometimes the needed information is scientific, sometimes occupational. There are occasions when you need popularized information. You may also look for research data. 

In this guide we mostly deal with searching digital information. In your work, you may need information in many different forms. Most often you need documents in printed or electronic form but you may also need documented discussions.

All required information is not available in your library or accessible over the internet. Sometimes you perhaps need to buy some of it. Think carefully what kind of information you need and how much time and money you are ready to spend on it.

Preparatory search

Preparatory information retrieval is part of acquainting with the research topic. Good sources for this stage are newspapers, magazines, television, internet, discussion groups, encyclopaedia, Google, and Wikipedia. All these provide you with basic understanding of the topic. Same sources are good for finding search words, which are then used in database searches. Preparatory searches also help you to find different viewpoints to your research problem.