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Introduction to Doing Research: Searching for Information

For those new or returning to research, this guide will help you to plan your research projects and use the library more effectively.

Academic Search Complete

Academic Search Complete

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Starting Your Search

Starting Your Search

Beginning a search doesn't have to be scary if you take a few moments to come up with a strategy before you start.

1.  If you haven't already, choose your topic. And make it a big one. It's easier to refine your topic later than to expand it when you can't find specific information..

2.   Turn that topic into a question. Determine what you want to know about your topic. Usually, this means relating your topic to another idea.

3.  Come up with a few keywords to use as search terms. You should have two to four to start. 

4.  Select a database that is likely to have articles on your topic. 

5.  Type your keywords into separate boxes in the database and click that search button. 

6.  Check out your results. 

  • Too many? Add another keyword to narrow your search or add a limiter (e.g. date) 
  • Too few? Remove one of your keywords or add synonyms (e.g. polar bear OR maritime bear)

Search Terms

Search Terms

Before you begin searching, it's often helpful to come up with a variety of search terms. These are usually nouns - any people, place, or thing that is somehow related to your topic.

Start your search with broad terms. This returns the most article results. As you continue to search, you can begin to narrow down your topic using more specific keywords.

Drawing a bubble chart can help you visualize your search terms. When drawing a bubble chart, you want to think of different subjects and ideas and how they relate to each other and your topic. It also helps to use synonyms because articles don't always use the same terminology.