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Data Science: Plan Your Search

This guide will help Data Science students find information they can use for their studies

Why plan your search?


At university you are expected to find and use scholarly information:

  • in your assignments
  • to prepare for class
  • as part of your learning

However, to find scholarly information you need to search in a particular way to get good results.

This page will show you how to plan your search

Unpacking your assignment


Your first step before you find any information is figuring out what your assignment is asking you and what your topic is about.

The following video shows you how to break down your assignment and get started brainstorming keywords you can use.

Step 1: Identify your key concepts


Before you find any information, identify the main ideas (or key concepts) in your assignment question or research topic


Create a digital visualisation on the rise in construction of oil or gas pipelines in the last 10 years in Central Asia. 

The key concepts are: 

Construction Oil / Gas pipelines Central Asia 10 years

Step 2: Brainstorm keywords & synonyms


Different words can be used to describe the same concept.

Think of other words that could be used to describe your key concepts. Synonyms should also be included. 


Construction Oil / Gas Central Asia 10 years



natural gas










Some resources to help with brainstorming: 

  • Google & Wikipedia
  • Dictionaries & Thesauri
  • Reference books & Encyclopedias

Step 3: Constructing a search


Use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords & synonyms into a search. You can build multiple searches using different synonyms & keywords.


Use OR to combine your key concept and its synonyms & similar words:

Key Concept Keywords & Synonyms Search



(construction OR

construct OR build)

Use AND to combine your key concepts together: 

(construction OR construct OR build)


(gas OR oil OR "natural gas") 

NOTE: We used inverted commas around "natural gas", because we want to search for it as a phrase. This means databases will only return results that include those words together, not separately. 

Step 4: Run your search


Now that you have a search string, you can paste it into the basic search of most databases, such as the Library catalogue, Google Scholar, or ProQuest.

(construction OR construct OR build) AND (gas OR oil OR "natural gas") AND ("Central Asia" OR Kazakhstan OR Kyrgyzstan OR Tajikistan OR Turkmenistan OR Uzbekistan)

Step 5: Review your results


Not all the information you get from a search will be useful. A successful search will show results relevant to your topic. If your results are not relevant go back and try different keywords in your search.

Find relevant results by checking the: 

Even if your information is relevant, it might not be good quality. Check if it passes the C.R.A.P. Test before you use it.