Media Arts & Design: Plan your search

Get started

Image source: Before you start searching for information take some time to plan. It can help you find information faster:

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.



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.

Search the library collection for dictionaries, encyclopedias or handbooks in your topic area

Plan your search

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?

Example question: What is the impact of package graphic designs on consumer choice? 

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

  • package 
  • graphic design
  • consumer choice

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

  • packaging, design, imaging, graphic arts, package design, commercial art, marketing, consumer, consumer behavior, consumer response 

Also consider:

  •  plurals, different word forms ( consumer vs customer)
  •  different spellings (behaviour vs behavior), and hyphenated words 
  • acronyms or abbreviations 

Once you have your list of terms for each concept, you can combine them to create 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/word stem


finds package, packaging etc...​



finds zero or one character to replace ths symbol

can be used anywhere in a word


finds behaviour, behavior​


  " "   

keeps two or more words together in the entered order 

"graphic design"

NOTE: Symbols may vary view the 'how to save time searching...' guide below for information on specific databases


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:

"graphic designAND ("consumer choice" OR "consumer  behavio?r"AND packag*

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



The Library Collection can be a good place to start. Use the Collection 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.

Next Step

Now you have finalised your search strategy, you are ready to start finding resources. Click the image to learn how.

Find resources