Defining the problem
When you have read up on your subject, you should make a definition of the problem in the form of a problem statement, making allowances for the following:
- Give a clear description of the subject; make sure that the subject is not too vague or too general.
- Consider what you intend to do with the literature search, for example, write a short essay, Master’s thesis or an exhaustive literature survey.
- Determine the languages you wish to include; if you do not have a command of German or French, you should probably exclude those languages.
- Determine the period that the literature should cover, for example, only the last 10 years. Should you include very recent or somewhat older literature ? This will usually depend on the subject.
- Decide whether you should look for special sources (such as annual reports, reports, photos or articles in journals).
- Estimate the time available to you: searching titles, selecting and reading them takes time.
When you have formulated a problem statement, you can then create your search profile. You do this in three steps:
- Divide the problem statement into elements.
- Then determine the suitable search terms.
- Combine these search terms into a search profile.