UL Instruction   Searching for scholarly information / management and economics   Before you start your search   Defining the problem

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.

Search profile

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.