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Finding Research Sources

Information on how to come up with keywords and use advanced search strategies

Sarah Dockray

on 6 January 2014

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Transcript of Finding Research Sources

Finding Research Sources
Forming Keywords
There are many strategies to use when formulating keywords. The basic idea of keyword formulation is to think about your topic or research question, break it down to the concepts you plan to discuss, and come up with different ways to describe those concepts.

Keyword Formulation Strategies:
Mind Mapping
Locating Sources
There are two main elements to locating quality sources when doing research. First, you must come up with relevant keywords to use in the database search engines. Second, you must learn how to put those keywords together to create specific advanced search strategies.
Forming Keywords
The most crucial part of the research process is coming up with keywords. If you do not come up with relevant terms to use in the search engine, you will not be able to locate relevant articles. There are many different strategies you can use to form keywords.
Using Advanced Search Strategies
Once you create a list of keywords for your topic, you need to know how to put those keywords together in order to get the best search results. You can use a variety of specific formulas to string your keywords together in the library databases or Google to ensure you get the best search results.
Create an Outline
Most students think of an outline as something that happens after research but before writing the paper. In reality, writing an outline can be a good way to come up with keywords before research begins. By listing your main idea, supporting ideas, and related information in a hierarchy, you'll be able to see the areas you need to further research, and use the language in your outline as keywords. It can also help you focus as you begin to research - choose one section of the outline every day or week, and focus your research on that topic only. This can help keep you from becoming overwhelmed.
Elements of Locating Sources
Brainstorming is the least formal way to come up with keywords. There is no structure - simply set a time limit to write down your topic and any related terms. Write down every word or phrase you think of. Then when your time is up, review and edit the words you came up with.

Freewriting is another form of brainstorming with a little more structure. Instead of making a scattered list of terms, you begin by writing a paragraph of all the things you know about your topic. Once you're finished, read your paragraph and highlight key terms or phrases that you think would be good keywords.

TIP: think of synonyms, plural and singular forms, alternative names, abbreviations, acronyms, and spelling variations when reviewing your keywords. Databases will only look up the exact word or phrase you enter, not variations of the word or different spellings.
Always cite your sources! :)

Brainstorming photo: http://seancollinsdesign.com/holster-finder/
Mind map photo: http://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/women/mind-maps
Outline Photo: http://awesomestudy.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/brainstorming-outlining/

Mind mapping is a more visual way to brainstorm. You can create your own mind map to help develop keywords to use when searching for sources. To make a mind map, start with a blank sheet of paper. Put a word that represents your goal or career in the middle of the page, and draw outward from the main topic in the middle. As you think of related topics or sub-topics, branch out on the page. Keep thinking of topics related to the sub-topics, and so on. Don't be afraid to get creative - feel free to use lots of colors or draw pictures to represent some topics.

There are also a number of web sites that will help you create a mind map online. See the links to the right if you want to experiment.
Mind Mapping
Free Mind Mapping Web Sites:
EXAMPLE: Start with your general topic. Now brainstorm the different possibilities you can think of related to proving or disproving your thesis. Under each of these topics, consider evidence proving or disproving each point. This gives you a rough idea of where you need to find supporting evidence and what you now need to research.
Advanced Search Strategies
Now that you've come up with some helpful keywords to help you conduct your research, experiment with advanced search strategies to get the best results. Advanced search strategies are certain ways to combine your keywords to get more specific or more broad search results.

Some Advanced Search Strategies:
Phrase Searching
Boolean Searching
Boolean searching is one advanced search strategy you can use to narrow (get less search results) or broaden (get more search results) your search. Boolean searching is not very complicated and is a great way to get the best search results possible. In fact, you've probably used Boolean searching before without knowing it.
Phrase Searching
Phrase searching is another advanced search strategy method of narrowing your search results by searching for an exact phrase within the articles in the databases. It is very simple to perform this search. Simply put the phrase you're looking for into quotation marks. Normally, the database will search for each word individually if you enter more than one keyword into a search box.

For example, if you search
video games
, you will get
6,703 search results
which contain all articles that have the words video and games in them (not necessarily next to each other).

However, if you search
"video games"
(with the phrase in quotation marks), you will get
3,966 search results
only containing the phrase video games.

You could even pair your phrase search with a Boolean search to narrow your results even further. If you search
"video games" AND careers
, you will only get
57 search results
Truncation is another advanced search strategy you can use to broaden your search results. Truncation is helpful because it can give you search results containing all possible endings of your keyword. You can perform a truncation search by writing the stem of your main topic keyword and adding an asterisk (*) to the end of it. For example, if your topic was voting, you could search vot*, which will bring back all search results containing words that begin with the letters vot (like vote, votes, voters, voting, etc.).

Example of Search Terms and Results
Engineer/Engineers - 64,775 results
Engineering - 698,204 results
Engineer* - 756,675 results

If you had only used engineer in the search engine, you would have missed out on over 600,000 other articles that could have been helpful for your topic. Using truncation also helps prevent you from having to do similar searches over and over again, saving you time in the research process.
Any questions? Contact...
Sarah Dockray
Osceola Campus Librarian

(407) 582-4156

Office 4-214 (inside Library)
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 8am-3pm
I have my keywords... now what?
Sample Outline
Career Mind Map
Brainstorming Notes
When conducting a Boolean search, you would use OR to broaden your search results. This could be a good choice if you are trying to decide between two topics, and want to see if there's more information on one topic or the other. It is also a great choice if there are multiple words or synonyms to describe your topic.

For example, if your career goal is to become a librarian, there are many kinds of librarians to choose from. If you're unsure, you can try a search like "academic librarian OR public librarian". This will return search results for one term or the other, as well as some sources that mention both.
When conducting a Boolean search, you would use AND to narrow your search results. Try to use one keyword representing your goal or career, along with a more specific keyword that describes what you want to know about the goal.

For example, if I search "astronaut" in the library databases, I will get tens of thousands of articles about astronauts, but not all search results will be about becoming one. If I add a second keyword to make my search "Astronauts AND careers", I will now get every search result that discusses astronauts, but must also mention careers.
When conducting a Boolean search, you would use NOT to narrow your search results. Try to use one keyword representing the general topic of your essay, along with a more specific keyword that describes the kind of search results you do not want. Whichever word comes after NOT will be eliminated from all search results that are retrieved.

Perhaps you know you want to be an engineer. You're not sure exactly what kind, but you do know that you're not interested in being a chemical engineer. You could search "engineer NOT chemical". This will give you all articles that discuss engineers, and exclude any article that mentions the word chemical.
A Boolean search will have dropdown menus with "and", "or", and "not" between the keyword boxes
The shaded part represents search results using the search Engineer NOT Chemical. You will get all articles with the word engineer, except for the ones containing the word chemical
The shaded part represents search results using the search Astronaut AND Careers. You will get all articles containing both words, not one or the other.
The shaded part represents search results using the search Academic Librarian OR Public Librarian. You will get any articles that mention either terms. Some articles will be about academic librarians, some about public librarians, and some about both.
Three Kinds of Boolean Searches
AND - Narrow your search results
OR - Broaden your search results
NOT - Narrow your search results
Be careful using truncation! If you don't use enough of the stem word, you could end up with mixed results. If we truncate engineer as engin*, we will now get search results containing the word engine or engines.
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