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Finding Scientific Articles: Structure your search

Step 2 - Develop a Conceptual Plan

Identify the main concepts of a topic

In order to find relevant articles, you must identify all important aspects (concepts) of your information need(s).
Here are some examples of questions to help you achieve this outcome:

  • Which main aspects should be necessarily covered by the articles you are looking for (what should a relevant article address)?  
  • What is the topic of your search?
  • What is the studied object, individual, organization, or group?
  • What is the research method used?
  • What are you working on? What interests you? (winter maintenance)
  • In the case of...? (road networks)
  • With the help of (which method, analysis, process)? (optimization models and methods)

Your answers to these questions must be short (single word or expression). If the topic of your search includes an original aspect, this should be reflected in your answers.


Connect the concepts with the "AND" operator

Generally, a subject can be represented using three concepts, yet this is not always possible. These concepts must describe and cover your information need.

To meet the information need Optimization of the winter maintenance activities of road networks, the articles retrieved by executing the search strategy should necessarily address the following three aspects:

Subject: Winter maintenance
Object: Road networks
Technique(s): Optimization models and methods

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.

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