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Searching for information: a practical guide

Searching for information

Searching for information is not always straightforward. We got a bunch of librarians to suggest some insider pointers and useful techniques.

Searching for information : a practical guide



The way we look for our keys is different to the way we look for a holiday. If we want to know what’s on television tonight, we might look in a different place to if we want to order a pizza.

Suppose you wanted some cheese...

  • You might go to a supermarket, go to the dairy aisle, browse the shelves, then pay at the self-checkout;
  • You might go to a different supermarket where the dairy aisle has a different (perhaps even better) selection of cheeses, and then pay at a staffed checkout;
  • You might go to a supermarket and see some suggested cheeses on the end of an aisle, then pay for them using an app on your phone;
  • You might go to a supermarket and visit a dairy counter where you'll have to ask someone in a white hat to cut you what you want — you could even ask them to advise you on what cheese to get;
  • You might go to a delicatessen or a specialist cheese shop where a passionate cheesemonger will help you select the perfect cheese and explain how best to store and prepare it.

We might tend to get our cheddar from one supermarket, our stilton from another, our camembert from the deli, and, on special occasions, our Venezuelan beaver cheese from a specialist importer. Our cheese searching behaviours will vary depending on our cheesy needs, and what cheese sources we have access to.

And the same is true of other things we might be searching for like academic literature: as with cheese, we might have to search in more than one place, using different techniques in each.

In this first section we'll take a look at the basics of searching in different places according to our needs:

Beyond that we'll dig deeper into understanding the different sources of information we might find, how to search them, and how to sift through the results we get.

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