The Search Function Is Your Best Friend: Part 1

Academic News & Updates

If you already use the search function in Microsoft Word, you can stop reading right now. This blog is not for you. However, if you are not sure how to use the search function or know what it is but have never really used it, then read on. In this blog, I will discuss some useful ways to use the search function when writing your dissertation. This is not a step-by-step how-to guide for using the search function. A simple Google search will reveal numerous guides for using Word’s search function. This blog is about why you should be using the search function and how to put it to use so you can easily navigate your dissertation.

Search for specific terms and stop scrolling through your document: Sometimes when I am on the phone with clients, they ask me to wait while they search for a specific term, passage, or section of their dissertation. I know they are scrolling through the entire dissertation scanning page after page, muttering, “Wait… Hold on… That’s not it.” This method is usually not productive and can be very time consuming. If this characterizes how you search through your dissertation, stop. Instead, start using your search function, which is easily located in the upper righthand corner of your Word window in the “Home” tab.

With the search function, you can search for specific words or combinations of words. Not only is this incredibly easy and time efficient, it also helps you to put your dissertation into manageable perspective. Scrolling through page after page, through thousands of words gives you the impression that your dissertation is a massively unmanageable chunk of text.

The search function can help counter the perception that your dissertation is unmanageable. For example, if you want to search for where you discuss your study’s purpose, you can search for “purpose” or “the purpose of this study is.” Now, you can go straight to the places where you discuss the purpose without having to scroll and search through page after page. This kind of search also helps with alignment. When you see that you mention your study’s purpose six times throughout the document, for example, you can easily go to those six locations to make sure the wording is consistent.

Obviously, there will be times when the search function will not help you. If you are doing a study on leadership, for example, and the term appears throughout the document, then searching the term will provide too many hits to be useful. However, if you know you have mentioned “servant leadership” several times and want to find that, the search function would be helpful in finding the instances in which you have used that term specifically, saving you time and frustration.


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