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How to Plan a Comprehensive Search: Multi-Strategy Search Model

The Multi-Strategy Search Model


A metaphor for using Multi-Strategy search...
Weave together a basket of strategies to capture all the research studies.

Every library discovery tool has limitations in language, inclusion, database construction, and search engine functionality.  It is difficult to feel confident that you have accurately identified all the academic conversation around a focused topic when you have only used a single search approach.

Using multiple search strategies is like weaving a basket.
Asking your question in several places, in multiple ways, allows you to weave together a tight net of citations without holes.

Examples of When to Use

When the topic is focused and the scope is comprehensive... it is appropriate to use the Multi-Strategy search model 

  • In the Critical Review of Research Learning Achievement, you must identify ALL the studies on your topic, within the exclusionary parameters which you set. The multi-strategy model is well suited to this learning achievement.
  • Some components of your overall Dissertation Literature Review might also benefit from this comprehensive approach.


Using the Model

Although the Strategies below are numbered, they are not intended to be done in order.  You might enter the search with any strategy that makes sense.


  • Strategy 3 :  Search Citations [Forward]
    • Selecting seminal or key studies on your topic, forward search in  Web of Science Index
    •  Google Scholar offers a "Cited By" Feature.
    • Within some indexes, e.g. PscINFO a record includes a link to other studies [only within that database] which cite that item.
  • Strategy 4 :  Do a Deep Journal Search/ Deep Author Search .. When appropriate
    • Some of journals - accessible in full text via the  A-Z Journal Gateway - can be browsed or searched in Full Text
    • Author indexes in all databases

  • Strategy 5 :  Search Outsider Sources