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Essay guide_Second Semester 2020: Tips for searching ECO1010S/ECO1110S

1. Which databases are relevant for your essay?

The main sources that will be good for getting literature for this essay are:   


Within EbscoHost, select the following databases:

  • Academic Search Premier
  • Business Source Premier
  • AfricaWide Information
  • EconLit

4. Getting too many results?

If you are getting too many results or results that are not very relevant, one way of refining your search is to use:

Phrase searching

If your keyword is more than one word, you can use quotation marks to search for the keyword as one unit e.g.

Use quotation marks to search for specific terms together e.g.

         "economic growth"

will retrieve only results with the two terms next to each other in the specific order


5. How to determine relevance of a journal article

When you conduct a search in a database, you may retrieve a lot of results. To help you determine if an article will be relevant, you need to:

  • Read the title of the article
  • Read the abstract or summary of article
  • Look at the section headings of the article
  • Look at the subjects/keywords assigned to describe the article
  • Read the conclusion of the article

This will save you time from reading articles that are not relevant for your topic.

2. Identify keywords or search terms

Before you start searching for information, the first and very important step is to  identify the keywords or search terms that you will use for searching. Library databases require you to enter keywords into the search box because entering an entire essay topic or question will not be effective and is likely return poor or even no relevant results at all.

The search terms you use are critical in determining the relevance of the results that you will retrieve. Try to identify as many different search terms as you can.

Examples of the search terms you may use for the essay topic are:

  • inequality
  • economic growth
  • South Africa
  • income inequality
  • income distribution
  • Gini coefficient

3. Use Boolean operators to create search statements

Once you have identified search terms, to retrieve the most relevant search results, you need to construct a search statement

A search statement is a combination of search terms that you use to search. You use Boolean operators to connect search terms. Boolean operators are used to define the relationships between the search terms. These include:

AND - narrows search results as ALL search terms need to be in search results. Retrieves a smaller and more specific set of results.


inequality AND South Africa                                                                  inequality AND South Africa AND economic growth

                                                                                                              The more search terms you use, the smaller the

                                                                                                              set of results retrieved.

  NB: Green colour indicates the results retrieved.