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Literature research guide

In 5 steps to a good theoretical basis

You can find lots of information on the internet, or by using library resources. But, how do you find a source that is relevant and usable for you? Read it here.


What are you looking for?

Well begun, is half done. This is also true when you are looking for literature for your study assignment, research or thesis. We will explain the first step toward answering your search questions.


Make a mind map

If the framework and themes of your assignment are clear, explore the possibilities of your topic. You will find what you’re looking for by first orientating on your topic. A good starting point for your orientation can be making a mind map. You can fill one in easily and quickly on MindMeister. You can also gain new insights by simply talking to other students or lecturers about your topic.


Suppose you are writing an assignment on obesity among youths. Words such as "losing weight", "overweight", "sport", "nutrition centre", "the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport" may come to mind. By writing these down, you gain perspective on your topic and subjects that you may encounter.

Narrow it down

Start searching the breadth of the topic for pertinent information. Which trends apply, what do experts have to say about the subject, and what has been written about in the (trade) literature? During this orientation search phase, you will get an increasingly clearer picture of your subject. This will help you define your subject and, in the end, formulate specific research questions.

The research question

Qualities of a research question

Do you have a good feel for the subject? Then formulate a general research question. Your research question will be your starting point. The question describes exactly what you want to know and provides direction for your search process. So it is important to formulate the question well.

  • Your research question must be clear, with transparent concepts.
  • Your research question must be specific in order to do a focussed search.
  • Your research question must be relevant in order to contribute to your article, your goal.
  • Your research question must have an open formulation; it is not a question with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.
  • Your research question must be realistic; you must be able to find your answer within an acceptable amount of time, and with available means.

During the orientation search phase you will no doubt notice that there are countless search results on the internet. Define your subject in order to control the search. Specify by using,  demographics, geography or a time period, for example. 

Search terms

Finding relevant search terms

A good research question determines the rest of the search process. Subsequently you translate the research question into relevant search terms with which you will search. You can find relevant search terms by scanning through relevant articles for general terms. Do you find it tricky coming up with useable search terms? Or are you not sure if the search terms you have are the right ones? In that case you can, for example, consult a synonym website. During the orientation search phase you will come across trade language and English words. This will also help you to find good search terms. Note them down! 

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