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Introduction to Research

How to turn your topic into a search, search through library resources and the web, evaluate what you found, improve your writing and citation, and get help from a librarian.

Search Strategies

Starting Your Search

Whether you're looking for books or articles, the search strategies are pretty similar, and you can start at the giant search bar in the middle of the University Libraries' homepage. This page of the guide has several ways to learn about search strategies, including text, videos, and a self-guided tutorial. Scroll down for more information!

Screenshot of the University Libraries' homepage

Keywords and Logic

HOW you search is perhaps more important than WHAT you search. Unlike Google and other web search engines, databases don't recognize questions, so you have to type in keywords relate to your search.

If your research question is "Does standardized testing have a negative impact on low-income students?", you might use keywords like: "standardized testing" and "low-income" and "high school students." The quotation marks tell the database which words belong together, otherwise it will search for "standardized" and 'testing" separately, instead of as one term.

  • Keywords represent main ideas and concepts in your research topic. 

    • You start with your research topic or question. To search online and in databases, you need keywords. 
    • Read background information on your topic and write down words related to your topic. These words will help you brainstorm keywords.
    • Try some of these words in the Libraries' QuickSearch box. Does useful information come up? Do your words match words that researchers are using in their journal articles?
  • Four types of keywords (and examples) to consider:

    • Narrow - Corn is a narrower word for food.
    • Broad - Dog is a broader word than chihuahua.
    • Related - Education is related to testing and common-core standards. (They have a relationship, but aren't the same thing.)
    • Similar - Teenager is similar to young adult.

Brainstorming keywords gives you opportunities to search multiple ways, to discover different results. You'll be amazed what outcomes a little tweak in your thinking does.

Start putting together your keywords in a smart way. Watch this video to learn more:

Search Strategies

plan your search effectively: strategize a plan

Tutorial: Search Strategies

Develop a game plan for getting started on your research project, isolate the keywords in your research question or topic, brainstorm more keywords by searching, and combine keywords using Boolean logic.