Skip to main content

Finding Scientific Articles: Elaborate your Plan and Strategy

Step 3 - Elaborate your conceptual plan...

Use appropriate search terms

Once you have determined the concepts, try to identify a variety of related terms. These are the keywords that will be used to elaborate your search strategy. The more diversified the vocabulary, the more relevant results you will obtain. To find the appropriate terminology, you can record the terms that come to mind spontaneously for each concept and then:

  • Consult general and specialized dictionaries such as Termium Plus and the Grand dictionnaire terminologique;
  • Note the synonyms, quasi-synonyms, antonyms and expressions, trademarks, general or specific terms (e.g., if your concept is automobile, add road vehicle), chemical formulas and English acronyms related to each of your concepts;
  • Consult general and specialized encyclopedias and handbooks.

The conceptual plan: A useful tool!

The conceptual plan is a list of terms and expressions related to each of the concepts that represent the chosen subject. It groups information according to their Boolean connections, therefore the terms related to each concept will be connected by OR and the concepts will be connected by AND in the resulting search strategy.

Group under each concept the identified terms and add appropriate truncation(s), usually represented by the asterisk *. This symbol, placed to the right of a string of characters, enables searching everything that begins with the preceding letters, regardless of the word ending. For example: optim* will retrieve: optimisation, optimization, optimizing, optimal, optimum.

Step 3 - ... and your search strategy

From your conceptual plan, write your search strategy according to the Boolean logic. The terms describing the same concept are linked by OR and enclosed in parentheses, whereas the concepts are linked by AND. Truncation is represented by the asterisk *.


            (snow removal OR snow disposal OR snow plow* OR snow plough* OR snow clear* OR ice removal OR ice control* OR deic* OR salt spread* OR abrasive spread* OR winter maintenance)


            (network* OR road* OR street* OR highway* OR urban*)


            (algorithm* OR decision support system* OR DSS OR decision aid system* OR decision aiding system* OR expert system* OR heuristic* OR metaheuristic* OR optim* OR computer* OR software* OR mathematic*)

Essential Tools

Dictionaries are essential tools for finding translations and synonyms. 

The electronic dictionaries Termium Plus and Grand dictionnaire terminologique provide translations and definitions for technical terms in English and French.

Encyclopedias provide summary information about a certain field or topic. They are an excellent starting point for someone who is not familar with a certain subject.

Techniques de l'ingénieur is a French language encyclopedia that is an excellent source of information for all fields of engineering.

Boolean Logic

This Venn diagram represents the Boolean logic applied to a subject. As shown by the red circle, the interesting articles are those found at the intersection of the three aspects.