Planning your search

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A literature search starts with effective planning. A literature search plan can:

  • ensure your literature searching is comprehensive
  • prompt you to think critically
  • guide your searching to focus on your topic
  • document your search processes to minimise replication
  • save time.

Identify the main or important aspects

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


‘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

Developing keywords

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 Reuse Lifecycle
Waste water Sewerage Drain water
Cities Urban Metropolis

Now look to developing your search strategy utilising some different search techniques.


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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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