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Access to HE and Foundation Pathways Programme


Before you start searching for information for your essay, project or dissertation topic, you should always take the time to examine the topic and make sure you understand what it is you are looking for.

Don't just type your essay question into a database or search engine!

Instead break it down into important concepts e.g. what is it you need to find information on?

For example, if your assignment title is:
Investigate the impact of global warming on building design
The important concepts are global warming and building design

For unfamiliar topics it is handy to use a dictionary or encyclopedia to define the terms and make sure they are fully understood.

You will often find that you get better results if you search for phrases rather than individual words
So when searching for Global warming it would be better to search for it as a phrase rather than global and warming separately

Most databases and search engines recognise phrases by combining the words in speech marks
e.g. "global warming"

You might find it useful to plan out your assignment on paper, in Microsoft word or a search table. Mind mapping can also be a great way of visually identifying the main concepts and topics you need to address.

Have a look at the following example of a simple mind map for the subject mental health

Credo Reference (2022) Mental Health Mind Map. Available at: (Accessed: 22 July 2022). 

Once you are clear about the information you need you can move on and ask:  "Where can I look to find this information?". Depending on the research topic you may need to use a wide variety of different information sources.