Before you begin, read your research question/assignment. If you have any questions, be sure to ask your instructor or TA before you begin your research.
EXAMPLE RESEARCH QUESTION: Assess the impact that social media has had on recent outbreaks of civil unrest. Find peer-reviewed journal articles published in the last 5 years.
|Step 1: Identify key concepts||Key concepts from your research question are the most effective search terms to quickly locate relevant sources.||Underline key nouns from your research question (for example, people, places, time periods, issues).||Assess the impact social media has had on recent outbreaks of civil unrest.|
|Step 2: Identify alternative search terms||To find everything relevant to your topic in a database.||
Brainstorm alternatives (like synonyms, related terms, or alternative spellings) for your key concepts.
These will be used as search terms.
Key concept 1: Social media
Key concept 2: Civil unrest
|Step 3: Consider using limiters (available in a library database)||In order to focus on articles that are appropriate for your assignment.||Choose limiters in a library database that are relevant to your research needs.||
|Step 4: Combine your search terms||In order to get more focused results, use Boolean operators (and, or) as well as the wildcard* to combine key concepts.||
And: Combines key concepts together to find articles that contain both concepts.
Or: Combine alternative search terms for the same concept to find articles that contain either term.
Wildcard*: Finds variations in spelling, prefixes, and suffixes (riot* will find riot, riots, rioting)
Phrase search " ": enter search terms made up of multiple words in quotation marks to preserve word order ("social media" will look for these two words side by side)
("social media" OR "social network*" OR twitter OR facebook)
("civil unrest" OR conflict OR revolution OR riot*)
|Step 5: Review your search results||Check if articles are appropriate for your assignment to ensure you find the right information to write a high quality paper.||
Check if you articles are:
|Step 6: Adjust your strategy||If you don't find relevant articles, change your search strategy.||
Too few articles? Try...
Too many articles? Try...
Too few articles?
Too many articles?
Adapted from The University of Manchester Library: Making Your Search Work (Cheat sheet)
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