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Computer Science & Engineering: Create a Plan

Finding Keywords

Once you have identified a topic, select the terms and phrases that are essential to understanding the topic.

For example:

Topic – Because of the advancements made in structural design and engineered materials, there are likely other reasons why we still have reports of bridges collapsing in the United States.

Keywords: structural design, engineered materials, reasons, bridge collapse, United States

Once you have identified the keywords, find a way to think of related terms and phrases. If you are having trouble identifying additional keywords, thesauri, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and online encyclopedias like Wikipedia can be great places look for inspiration.

Using Subject Thesauri

Using Database Subject Thesauri & Terms

 Most databases have a subject thesaurus (list of subject terms used) that you can use to help generate more ideas for your research, and make your searches more precise. The words listed are generally 'broader', 'narrower', or 'related' terms to your topic.

For example: In the database Compendex, typing in "Artificial Intelligence" gives you the following - Used for: AI, Computational Intelligence

Broader Terms

Narrower Terms         

Related Terms
Adaptive Systems
Fuzzy control Autonomous agents
Knowledge engineering BioCybernetics
Intelligent computing
Brain Models
Problem solving

Broadening/Limiting Your Search

It is important to know when to broaden or narrow/limit your search. Broaden your search if you're not getting a lot of results

Ways of broadening a search:

  • Truncation symbols (*, ?, etc.) - e.g. "Electrical engineer*" = this will give you "electrical engineer, electrical engineers, electrical engineering, etc."
  • Use "OR" for alternate spellings or synonyms- e.g. "construction  AND waste OR debris", "fiber OR fibre"


Narrow or limit your search when - you have a very large number of hits,  or if your search topic is very broad.

Ways of limiting/narrowing a search:

  • Phrase searching - Use " " - this will find words together in same order - e.g. "artificial intelligence"
  • Use "AND" - to combine words - e.g. "artificial intelligence" AND design

Specify a Research Methodology

Concept Map

A concept map is a graphical tool used to organize and structure knowledge.


How to Use a Concept Map

Created by Katherine Miller and Tom Childs for Douglas College Library. Creative Commons license Share Alike.