Preliminary searching in more detail

Initial or preliminary searching helps in establishing a basis for later specific or more comprehensive searching. Preliminary searching can help clarify the topic and supply basic knowledge upon which to develop an improved searching focus. It can help you refine your research question, find synonyms and to become clearer on the direction of your research. In addition, preliminary searching will assist identification of the key terminology in your field for the constructs you are interested in exploring. It is important to determine and use the terminology that experts in your field use, consider how the database thesaurus treat the terms in your research question - are there relevant subject headings? Remember, recognisability is about whether you can identify the terms in your question in the literature. Refer back to the property of recognisability for clarification. Question 1B of the resource log requires analysis of the recognisably of the theoretical constructs in your question - 1. Identify the constructs and 2. Justify the terminology used in your question. For preliminary searching, use general or broad search tools such as Quick Find, Google Scholar and the Library Catalogue.

Finding synonyms

Before starting to search, spend some time formulating the key concepts of your research question, identifying synonyms for the words and phrases, and defining them within the theoretical framework of your topic. Explore the meaning of terms using a dictionary and find synonyms with a thesaurus. You will find more synonyms when you start searching, so keep adding them to your resource log as you progress through this unit. Write a list of key authors or seminal works that you already know to be relevant to answering your research question.

Searching subject headings

Subject headings are a set of terms and phrases, from a controlled vocabulary that are used to describe the content of books and articles and are assigned by cataloguers and indexers. Subject headings take some of the guess work out of searching, saves time and help make searching more effective and efficient and in many cases more directed. There are many different ways to describe the same term, a subject heading brings these terms together under a single word or phrase. Look to see whether the database you are searching has a thesaurus to browse for the subjects that match your topic/word/phrase.

Using Quick Find and the Library Catalogue, both found on the Library homepage.

Activity - Subject headings

At the QUT Classic Catalogue

  1. Change keyword search to subject search
  2. Search individually on each theoretical construct from your research question
  3. Consider the search results - are there other words/phrases that might be more appropriate than the existing terms in your research question?

Activity - Quick Find

Go to the QUT Library homepage and start searching, using Quick Find.

  1. Enter words from your research question and click the search icon.
  2. Skim results; evaluate titles, citations and abstracts.
  3. From the most relevant results, use alternative terms to refine your search. Repeat until your result improves.
  4. On the left of the result screen, 'refine your search' results by selecting filters.

Quick Find tips:

  • Use double-quotation marks to search for words that go together, e.g. "teacher education".
  • Refine your search to articles from peer-reviewed publications.
  • Search using a seminal author last name with a topic word.
  • Filter by format, study area, or date range.
Advantages to using Quick Find But keep in mind
  • Useful for preliminary searching as a starting point to identifying key terminology.
  • Quick Find combines results from the library catalogue, many databases and QUT ePrints.
  • Searching is fast, easy, and uses a familiar interface.
  • Search results include citations of many kinds of sources: books, journal articles, newspaper articles, conference proceedings, dissertations, photos, multimedia, and much more.
  • Not appropriate for comprehensive searches – use subject-specific databases instead.
  • Vague or short searches will return too many results; searches using well-refined search terms or phrases in quotes will return fewer, more refined results.
  • Be aware that Quick Find doesn’t provide access to all scholarly material available at QUT.
  • Search mechanism is less sophisticated than those available within individual database platforms.

Known item searching

Looking for a specific journal article and you know the journal name?

Watch the video to find out how: Searching for an article (YouTube video, 2m34s)

Activity - find items using the QUT Classic Catalogue

Go to the QUT Classic Catalogue, then:

  1. in the drop down box change keyword to Title (to search by resource title)
  2. in the text box enter "meaningful learning with technology", and click "Search". A list of results will appear
  3. click on the first entry listed
  4. scroll down to the Subject section of the record. The subject tags are clickable links which allow browsing for books with the same subject
  5. click on the "Constructivism (Education)" link. This presents search results for related subjects
  6. click the subject "Constructivism Education" to list all books with that general subject
  7. reorder the results. From drop down box on the top right, choose "Publication Year", click "Sort".