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History: Create a Plan

Brainstorm Keywords

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

Combine Keywords

When researching, we are like detectives trying to combine the right terms in the right place to find the information we need. The Gathering Information page will help you to decide where to search, but how should you combine search terms to find what you are looking for?

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/thesis.

Getting Too Many Irrelevant Results?

Add more search terms.

Getting Too Few Relevant Results?

Change or remove some search terms.

Create a Research Question

These questions will help to transform your topic into a research question.

  • What is your topic?

  • What issues/concepts related to your topic do you need to understand better to develop a research question for your proposal?

  • What scholarly literature have you found related to these issues and concepts?

  • What gaps do you see in the scholarly literature related to your topic?

  • How can your research proposal address a gap in the scholarly literature?

  • Write a research question that, when answered, will help you to address that gap in the scholarly literature.

 See the example below and use the blank worksheet to narrow the scope of your literature review:

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.

Boolean Searching

Created by Douglas College Library staff. Creative Commons license Share Alike.