This video was created by Purdue University Libraries. It focuses on effective search strategy, and the importace of a research question.
1. Choose a preliminary topic. Once you begin researching, you might change this slightly or completely throw it out.
2. Identify keywords and concepts, using online tools like those shown at right or using a dictionary or thesaurus.
3. Develop a search strategy using your keywords.
4. Use Boolean operators (and/or/not) to refine your searching.
5. Find useful terms in your search results and retry your searches.
When searching for information about your topic, it's important to come up with an extensive list of search terms. Search terms are important concepts related to your topic. You need to look for different variations of words because different authors will use different terms to describe a topic.
Let's say you are looking for information about why the 1990s are referred to as the Dawn of the Information Age, particularly in terms of how we began to use computers to communicate.
Step 1: Identify the main concepts in your search: 1990s, Computers, Communicate
Step 2: Take each one of those concepts and brainstorm related words that might be useful. You might have to consult other sources for help.
Where do you find keywords and synonyms?
For our research question, we might come up with the following words:
Step 3: Now that have a list, combine these terms using Boolean Operators to create searches.
Both operators do the same thing. Requires all terms to appear somewhere in the document, in any order.
Example: curriculum AND high school
Includes any page with at least one of the terms.
Example: curriculum OR high school
|NOT / -||
Both operators do the same thing. Excludes documents containing whatever follows it.
Example: high school NOT elementary
high school - elementary
Requires all terms within the quotation marks to appear in the order written. Creates a highly specific phrase.
Example: "high school curriculum" would only search for this phrase, rather than the words individually.
Step 4: Try combinations of these words when you go to search for information in library databases and Google. Searching is a trial-and-error process, so be prepared to try a lot of different searches before you learn which ones will produce the best results.
Select a topic that:
Gather topic ideas from:
Narrow topic by identifying ideas or concepts included in broader topic. For example:
Broad topic: Preventative Medicine
Narrow topics: Hygiene, diet and nutrition, vaccination, stress reduction, reproductive health, dental health
Sources to help you narrow your topic:
Write your topic as a thesis statement, or short sentence that:
Search strategy definition: mapping out the key ideas of your topic in order to ease the search for information.
Make a list of keywords related to your topic.
Develop search terms.
Be sure to check the Locate tab for step 5