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Design Studies: Plan Your Search

A guide for undergraduate & postgraduate design students on finding, evaluating and referencing academic and image sources related to the design areas.

Why plan your search?


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

  • in your assignments
  • to prepare for class
  • to explore new theories and ideas

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

Use this page to learn how to plan your search and find the best scholarly information sources to 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


Explore how technology has changed design practices

Your key concepts are: 

Design practices Technology

Step 2: Brainstorm keywords & synonyms


Different words can be used to describe the same concept, and sometimes your concepts can be very specific or very broad. 

Think of other words that could be used to describe your key concepts, including:

  • synonyms,
  • broader ideas & terms
  • more specific ideas & terms. 


Design practices Technology



Handwork / Handcraft


Drawing / Graphics








Some resources to help with brainstorming: 

  • Google & Wikipedia
  • Dictionaries & Thesauri

Step 3: Build your search


There are multiple strategies that you can used to build a search so that you get the results you want. Start with building a basic search, then learn to build an advanced search. 

Boolean Operators are a way of telling a database or search engine how to do your search. Watch the video to learn how.

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


Choose the keywords you want to use, and use OR to combine those synonyms & similar words:

Key Concept Keywords & Synonyms Search
Design practices



(handwork OR handcraft)
Technology machines (technology OR machines)

Use AND to combine your key concepts together: 

(handwork OR handcraft) AND (technology OR machines)

There are other strategies you can use in your searching. Learn about Advanced Search Strategies in the video below. 


Add * to the end of truncated keywords to search for multiple endings: 

(hand*) AND (technology OR machines)

Use "double inverted commas" to include a search phrase (terms with more than 1 word): 

("design practices" OR hand*) AND (technology OR machines)

Step 4: Start searching


You will need to find different types of information during your studies. These may include: 

  • Academic literature
  • Images & Design Sources

The type of information you are looking for will determine where you search, and how you search. 

Using the steps above will help you find most of these information types, but there are also other places to look.

Explore this study guide or ask a librarian to discover more. 

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.