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Search tips

With so much information available in digital form, knowing how to find and classify relevant information is becoming increasingly important. The Library Am Guisanplatz BiG has compiled some tips to help you find what you are looking for.

Relevant for targeted research: a suitable search strategy (Photo: Sina Guntern/EMC)



Conducting a simple search in search engines like Google is often not enough, especially for more complex topics. To find what you are looking for, you need a suitable strategy; this is divided into three phases: preparing, conducting and processing.

Before the actual search, outline the exact question and think about what results you expect.

Tip: To get an overview of a still largely unknown topic, you can start by consulting a suitable reference work such as an encyclopaedia or dictionary.

Next, determine appropriate sources of information – such as scientific journals or specialised databases. Also think about the order in which you want to refer to these sources.

Tip: In research portals such as you can search various resources at the same time, provided they are integrated and freely accessible. This can save you time.

Before you start your search, think about the best terms to search for. If you are searching in foreign-language sources, you will of course need to translate them into the appropriate language.

Tip: Resources such as library catalogues use a predefined vocabulary in the form of a keyword catalogue. As they also include synonyms and abbreviations, they allow you to conduct a more targeted search.


Carry out your search using the sources and terms you have selected. In addition to simple searches, you can focus or extend your search by combining the selected words using Boolean operators (such as AND, OR and NOT).

Tip: If you get too few or too many hits, your terms may be too specific or too general. If so, you need to define more suitable search terms.

Most databases offer an advanced search or an expert search. An expert search allows you to narrow down the search by e.g. the year of publication or the source of information. You can also filter search results according to your own preferences.

Tip: Read the search tips or FAQs of the individual databases to learn about the different search options. Information on the BiG databases can be found under E-media .

Now make a rough selection of hits according to their relevance to your search question. Save interesting sources, for example by copying permanent links into a document.

Tip: The abstract of an academic article provides a good overview of what it is about, as it summarises the essential points. You can also read the conclusion for further information.

After the research, assess whether the information you have gathered is sufficient to answer your research question. If this is not the case, repeat the first two steps one or more times.

Tip: Always consider whether the effort you put in is worth the results you get. Do gaps really need to be filled or are looking for detailed information that you don’t actually need?

Once you have gathered enough information, you can consider the texts in more detail and compile the answers to your question. Of course, it may still be necessary at this point to conduct further searches as described above.

If you need assistance with your search, please complete the documentation request form. Further information can be found under "Documentation request". 

Library Am Guisanplatz Information and Documentation Services
Papiermühlestrasse 21a
CH-3003 Bern
+41 58 464 50 95

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Library Am Guisanplatz

Information and Documentation Services
Papiermühlestrasse 21a
CH-3003 Bern

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