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The Research Process :: Step by Step

Make a list of keywords relevant to your topic. Be sure to list similar, broader, narrower, and related terms. Keep the list by your side when you start your research and continue to add to it as you come across useful terms.

Identifying Keywords

Before searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. The keywords you use have an impact on the results of your research. 

If the keywords you choose do not give you the results you need, try the others on your list or use the search strategies listed under Step 2.

Keywords and phrases can easily be found by scanning . . .

  • your initial research questions
  • encyclopedia and other articles used when conducting background research
  • bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

If you are still struggling, try these suggestions:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend

Combining Keywords

When researching, we are like detectives trying to combine the right terms in the right place to find the information we need. This information will help you combine search terms to find relevant sources.

Broad Search

Search for information using the single most important term related to your topic. Use this type of search when looking for basic background information.

Specific Search

Search for information by combining key concepts using the words you have brainstormed. Each concept/word should be separated by the word "AND". Use this kind of search when looking for specific evidence related to your claim or thesis.

Getting Too Many Irrelevant Results?

Add more search terms.

Getting Too Few Relevant Results?

Change or remove some search terms.

Using a Concept Map

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

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