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What is information retrieval?

~ The summary of search results is a list of resources (bibliography) on selected topic on which you need to write an essay or prepare a paper, presentation or lecture.

NOTE: Information retrieval or (online) search is a process of searching for and finding relevant information. In Czech language, for both the searching process and the search results, we use the same word – ‘rešerše‘ (from French recherché – to search, searching, research), which might be little bit confusing. In English, librarians often use the term ‘information retrieval’ to describe the search process (especially while using professional electronic resources, e.g. specialized databases) and the term ‘search results’ for the outcome.

To perform an information retrieval means to search through available information resources (library catalogues, professional electronic databases, webpages of universities, scientific societies/companies etc.). Gathering and studying all the selected relevant sources is essential for developing knowledge about the state of the art in the field and about the topic of your paper. Thanks to information retrieval you organize the basic knowledge and starting points, and get the inspiration for your own work.


How to perform a search (information retrieval):

I. Selecting relevant specialized (technical) terms:

Selection of keyword for searching (special terminology in English and preferably also in Czech)

II. Formulating the search query

Using different types of searching (simple, advanced, expert) and search tools such as Boolean operators, proximity operators, truncation, masking

III. Choosing information resource

Selecting suitable subject-relevant library funds, databases, internet resources

IV. Searching in catalogues and databases

Entering keyword to search fields at the interface of the respective database/catalogue, and performing the search

V. Evaluation of the obtained results

Selection of relevant results (if the results don’t meet your task, it is necessary to rephrase the search query and try again)

If you’ve searched in catalogues/databases which don’t contain full texts, data or facts, you only get a literature summary. It is necessary to obtain the full texts in another way.

The opportunities of getting a full text:

Books (inter-library loan – ILL)

Journal articles (electronic document delivery – EDD)


Detailed instructions on ‘The right way how to perform an information retrieval’


  1. Terminology and keywords
    • Get straight the specialized/technical terminology for the topic you will focus on in your paper (both English and Czech/other language)
    • Prepare basic technical terms for the topic (keywords), their synonyms, both hypernyms (more general) and subordinate (more specific) terms
  2. Selection of information resources
    • Take a look at the offer of electronic databases in library and their content focus
    • Think about which other library could have literature on the topic at disposal
    • Consider also if you can use standards and patents for your topic
    • Find out which options of searching for scientific literature are provided by internet search engines (they should focus on scientific and research information – e.g. Google Scholar or Vivisimo)
  3. Preparation of the search query
    • Take a look at the search systems in catalogues and databases, and options of internet search engines
    • Decide into which fields you will enter your queries. Read the he Help (or Search Tips etc.) and learn about how to use logical and proximity operators
    • Formulate your search query