Children's Literature: Planning your search

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Image source: Before you start searching for information take some time to plan. It can save you time and find more relevant information, first:

1. Understand your topic and task
2. Identify main research concepts and alternative terms
3. Connect research concepts to form a search strategy

The video below shows the full process.


1. Understand your topic

You must have a broad understanding of your topic, before you can search for information or write your assignment. Consider:

  • Thumbs up <image, public doman>What do you need to do?  

  • What do you know? Or need to explore further?

  • Do you need to define any terms?

  • What types of evidence do you need?

  • Does information need to be current?

  • Do any theories apply to your topic?

  • Do you need facts and figures, or statistics?


John Keogh 'English Dictionaries', CC Licence: CC BY 2.0, Image source: Flickr

Use reference books to define terms, or find topic overviews, to become more familiar and locate better resources for your assessments.

See example reference works below:


Search the Library Catalogue

The Library Catalogue can be a good place to start. Use the Catalogue to search across much of the material in the Library's collection.

Depending on what you need to find, and how comprehensive you need to be in your search, you may also need to use specialised databases.

2. Identify research concepts and alternative terms

Example question: What is the effect of light upon the behaviour or learning and teaching process of children in school classrooms?

The main concepts in your question form the foundation of your search:image source: pixabay

  • light 
  • behaviour
  • learning
  • children
  • school classrooms

To cover the range of terminology used in the literature, you must also identify any synonyms or similar keywords for each concept:

  • lighting, illumination; achievement, performance; education, knowledge; child, students; school, classroom, classes

Also consider:

  •  Plurals, different word forms ( child vs children or student vs students)
  •  Different spellings (behaviour vs behavior), and hyphenated words (school classroom vs school-classroom)
  • Acronyms or Abbreviations  (Fluorescent vs fluoro)

Once you have your list of terms for each concept, you can combine them to create a search strategy.

3. Connect research concepts to form a search strategy

First simplify your search. Use truncation, wildcards and phrases to cover word variations:


finds unlimited characters after the symbol

must be used at the end of a word/wordstem


finds light, lighting etc...


finds zero or one character to replace the symbol

can be used anywhere in a word


finds behaviour, behavior

   " "

keeps two or words together in the entered order

"school classroom"

Now connect your remaining terms using AND, OR.

  • Use OR to connect different terms within the same concept

  • Use AND to connect each concept.

For example:

(light* OR illumination) AND behavio?r AND classroom*

Need more info? Check out our How to guides below.