Module 2: Formulating a Research Question and Searching for Sources

Introduction to Module 2


SFU Continuing Studies students at work in the classroom. By Flickr user Simon Fraser University  – Communications & Marketing under Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0

In this module we go over the framework for searching the literature. Keep in mind that searching is a non-linear and potentially iterative process; as such you may need to review and revise earlier steps at any point.

The steps to searching the literature are:

  1. Formulating a research question
  2. Identify search terms (keywords)
  3. Brainstorm more search terms
  4. Construct a search strategy
  5. Select and Search Databases
  6. Manage your search strategies and results (Covered in Module 3: Organizing, Managing and Screening Sources)

We will show you how to use special techniques like forward and backward citation searching to find more sources. Finally, if you are conducting a systematic review you should check out our special section on how to document your search strategy and results.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  1. Determine your research question
  2. Design and refine your own search strategy
  3. Choose appropriate resources to search
  4. Know how to use other serendipitous methods of information gathering and when to stop searching
  5. Document your search strategy



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Advanced Research Skills: Conducting Literature and Systematic Reviews (2nd Edition) Copyright © 2021 by Kelly Dermody; Cecile Farnum; Daniel Jakubek; Jo-Anne Petropoulos; Jane Schmidt; and Reece Steinberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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