A researcher may begin their process with a bit of brainstorming, mapping out keywords or jargon they have encountered in preliminary browsing, or even encountered in personal conversations. Whatever baseline understanding one has (if any at all) of a given topic, a good researcher will continue the process with the expectation that they will be introduced to new words, ideologies, methodologies, and interpretations of information that do not align with some or all of their own biases or notions, and that is ok! With COVID-19, the choice in search terms in conjunction with a particular resource will have major implications on the types of data discoverable throughout the process.
As suggested by the ACRL's Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, the search process goes well beyond selecting a few keywords, plugging into a search bar, then seeing what happens. As indicated in the following tenet, there is a thoughtful strategy required:
Searching as Strategic Exploration
Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.
The act of searching often begins with a question that directs the act of finding needed information. Encompassing inquiry, discovery, and serendipity, searching identifies both possible relevant sources as well as the means to access those sources. Experts realize that information searching is a contextualized, complex experience that affects, and is affected by, the cognitive, affective, and social dimensions of the searcher. Novice learners may search a limited set of resources, while experts may search more broadly and deeply to determine the most appropriate information within the project scope. Likewise, novice learners tend to use few search strategies, while experts select from various search strategies, depending on the sources, scope, and context of the information need.
So, a major takeaway here concerns scope, as well as the notions of efficiency and the integrity of the search itself. Searching on coronavirus in a Google search, for example, will certainly yield several results, and due to the currency of the pandemic, many may be relevant as well. Since we have a verifiable name for this disease and virus, as established by credible groups like the W.H.O. or CDC, a better search might be to combine the terms in a useful way. As a rule of thumb, you want to evaluate five major categories wen determining the potential value of a resource to your research process:
Research is a reflective process, a cycle rather than a singular activity. This is why keeping notes on the search terms and strings one uses is so valuable, whether they were "successful" or not. Execute a search, then consider the results. Reflect on the process itself as well as the data retrieved. Did your terms yield mostly academic sources? Was that a product of he search terms, the resources itself (Google, a database, etc.), or some combination? Reflect on how the search terms may be influencing your experience, and begin to synthesize these observations into your process. Search, evaluate the sources, reflect on what you are seeing/how you got there, as well as on how you might be able to adjust your approach moving forward. This is where Boolean searching can be handy.