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A word on search strategy

It can be helpful to write down your research question and identify the important words that define your topic before searching. For example:

‘I am interested in the recycling of waste water in cities.’

The important terms to include for this topic would be: recycling, waste water, cities.


The next step is to compile a list of synonyms or alternative terms. This will ensure that you will have a comprehensive search for relevant literature.

Consider variations such as:

  • Synonyms or alternative terms – e.g. climate change, global warming.
  • Acronyms / abbreviations – e.g. DFT, density functional theory
  • Alternative Spellings – e.g. aluminium, aluminum
  • Plurals / alternative endings – e.g. environment, environmental

For our research topic here is the start of a list of synonyms and alternative terms.

Recycling Waste Water Cities
Reuse Sewerage Urban
Lifecycle Drain water Metropolis


Further search tips

  • You can search for a specific phrase by placing it in quotations marks – e.g., “global warming”
  • Truncating a term by using the asterisk at the end of the term will allow you to retrieve results with alternative endings

e.g., environment* finds environments, environmentalist, environmentalism.


Now its your turn to develop a list of synonyms and alternative terms for your own research topic.

You might like to download this worksheet to assist you.

Search Strategy Worksheet for Researching Your Literature Review

  1. Write down your research topic and identify your topic keywords.
  2. Write some alternative search terms (synonyms)

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