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Searching and finding: Search methods

Part of the Information Literacy Portal

Best match method / quick & dirty

The best match method is a good method to use in the orientation phase. You may not know exactly which search terms to use. Fill in as many relevant terms in the search bar as possible. The best match method works best when you type in many terms. This method can quickly yield some search results.

Tip: In various catalogues you have the option to subsequently reduce your search results.

Pearl growing method

This method involves searching in DiZ or databases (including library databases) using subject terms.
Look through the initial search results and try to find better search terms, then search further using the new terms. 
For example, an author that often appears in the first search results is a good search term.

Building block method

With this method you determine the core elements (building blocks) of the search question. You define search terms for each element. Think of related terms, broader and narrower terms, synonyms, etc. Put these elements and terms in a schema:


The terms for 1 element can be combined with OR (Boolean operator). You can combine the building blocks with AND (Boolean operator).

(Architecture OR construction OR building)


(Modern OR contemporary OR "20th century")


(Netherlands OR Holland OR Dutch)

Snowball method

The snowball method is a way of finding literature by using a key document on your subject as a starting point. Consult the bibliography in the key document (book or journal article) to find other relevant titles on your subject. You then look in the bibliographies of these new publications to find yet more relevant titles. The advantage of the snowball method is that you can find a lot of literature about a subject quickly and relatively easily.
The disadvantage of this method is that you are searching retrospectively, so each source you find will be older than the previous one (especially in the case of books).

Citation method

There are search engines (Google Scholar) and databases (Web of Science) that indicate in the search results which other information sources cited the selected source. This is a good way to find more recent relevant literature. | Disclaimer | Over Zuyd Bibliotheek