Part I: Prepare search

I.3.2 Find search terms

A particularly important step in preparing a systematic search is the compilation of search terms.

To do this, you first formulate your topic in a few meaningful sentences or questions that take into account the different aspects of the topic. Filter out the most important terms from these sentences and questions and write them down.

If the library has specialist databases on the subject area in question, it may be worth taking a look at the thesauri in advance. The following screenshot shows an example from the technology thesaurus of the TEMA database for the search term "Zweitaktmotor [two-stroke engine]".

Example: Thesaurus entry for "Zweitaktmotor [two-stroke engine]" in the TEMA database

(E - English translation, O - generic term, U - subterm, V - related term)

In the next step, you amend the terms you consider relevant to the topic by:

  •     synonyms and related terms,
  •     generic terms and subterms,
  •     different spellings,
  •     terms in other languages (especially English if your working language is not English).

In this way, you receive a comprehensive list of words for your search in library catalogues and specialist reference databases.

To complete your term collection and to find the right terms, you have several tools at your disposal. These include lexicons and specialist dictionaries as well as indexes and thesauri.

Example: Working topic "crawfishes in the Baltic Sea Region"

thematic aspects crawfish Baltic Sea region  
synonyms crab, crayfish, crustacean Baltic Sea, Baltic Sea area  
related terms tracheal animals Baltic Sea coast, Baltic Sea countries  
generic terms arthropod, multicellular animal, lower animal, marine animal sea, inland sea  
subterms edible crab, hermit crab, beach crab, lobster Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Flensburg Fjord  
translations Krebs, Krustentier Ostsee  

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